EuroScience actively involved in 2017 Science Forum South Africa

On December 7 and 8, 2017 the third Science Forum South Africa- SFSA took place in Pretoria. “Igniting conversations about Science” was its motto. More than 2000 participants, many from South Africa, quite a few from other African countries and several tens from all over the world engaged in lively discussions and networking. South Africa’s indefatigable minister for Science and Technology, Mrs. Naledi Pandor was ever present, as usual. SFSA has evolved differently from ESOF: it is not in the first place showcasing developments in science across the board, but very much about science and society, and in particular science for development. The very lively exhibition to which also many embassies contributed showed how much science lives in South Africa. Ministers responsible for Science and Technology from Botswana, Namibia, Uganda and Angola and the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology underlined the pan-african intentions of the meeting, while a minister from Jamaica spoke to the links across the Atlantic Ocean.

EuroScience was actively involved. The ESOF2018 Champion Anne Cambon-Thomsen not only presented ESOF but was one of the speakers in a session organised by GB member Aidan Gilligan to discuss how the Brussels Declaration could be modified to the African context and then result in a future Pretoria Declaration. GB member and Treasurer Tony Mayer led a session on research integrity  though in the first place through his affiliation with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. SG Peter Tindemans spoke in a session on Industry 4.0 and the newly minted Japanese concept Society 5.0. In the concluding panel of the final Plenary he stressed that while concepts such as Industry 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence are very important, one should not forget that countries face many challenges, exemplified by the Sustainable Development Goals, which go much beyond this. Moreover, technologies need to be put in the context of societies: problems vary, opportunities do, constraints within which to work are dissimilar, as are cultural backgrounds. And it is vital to take the public along on these journeys towards e.g. Industry 4.0 lest they conclude at the end that all that happened is the loss of their jobs.  He finally pointed to the importance that governments build, sustain and resource strong institutions for the science endeavour. Implementation, including funding, is part and parcel of this. National or cross-boundary collaborative plans and policies without implementation are not worth the paper they are written on.

Peter Tindemans