The ethical dimension of the conduct of science should not be neglected, including more effective communication among scientists and between scientists and society.
Béatrice Descamps-Latscha, John Enderby, Michael Fischer, Alimohammad Kardan, Norman P. Neureiter, Yves Quéré (Organisateur) , Geraldine Richmond, Barbara Schaal, Glenn Schweitzer (Organisateur), Mojtaba Shamsipur, Chelsea Sharber, Kenneth I. Shine, Yousef Sobooti, Henry J. Vaux Jr
by Glenn E. Schweitzer
June 26-July 1, 2006
Science and technology are important components of many activities that affect the relationships among communities, countries, and cultures throughout the world. Thus, there is an important need for an adequate level of scientific literacy at all levels of education, policy making, and public discourse. The capacity of nations to develop and maintain scientific expertise should be strengthened with an emphasis on equality of opportunity for participation in the scientific enterprise and for realization of the benefits of science. The ethical dimension of the conduct of science should not be neglected, including more effective communication among scientists and between scientists and society. The dialogues on these and related topics among the conference participants from the United States, Europe, and Iran will be published in a conference proceedings and will help set the stage for future international interactions at a time when western political relationships with Iran are on the decline.
The Conference Participants and Agenda
The conference was organized by the U.S. National Academies and the French Academy of Sciences in response to a proposal for such a conference by the Iranian Academy of Sciences. It was one of a series of conferences and workshops that have been sponsored by the National Academies and the Iranian Academy, with the assistance of the French Academy, during the past six years. Unfortunately, due to political considerations in Tehran, several days before the conference the Iranian Academy reduced the number of its participants from seven to three. Fortunately, however, the three participants made good presentations and added considerably to the discussions at the table and in informal settings. They were joined by seven American and three European natural scientists, engineers, and social scientists.
The agenda addressed the following topics, with prepared presentations by the participants, followed by general discussions.
- Overview of Science and Society Issues
- Role of Science and Engineering in Development
- Obstacles and Opportunities in the Application of Science and Technology to Development
- How Can Scientific Thinking Be Promoted Among Decision-Makers?
- How Can Scientific Knowledge Be Managed and Utilized for the Development of Science?
- Science, Society, and Education
- Summary of Workshop Sessions
The following themes emerged from the presentations and the discussions:
- There is a need for more effective scientific communications and technology transfer
- There is a need for equality of opportunity to participate in the scientific enterprise and to derive benefits from scientific advances
- The capacity of nations to develop and retain scientific expertise should be strengthened
- Fundamental issues of development that affect the quality of life require greater application of science and technology
- There is a need for an adequate level of scientific literacy and engagement at all levels of education, policy-making, and public discourse
- There is an important ethical dimension to science, and scientific discussions and education should strive for behavior which finds broad acceptance.
The National Academies will prepare proceedings of the conference that will include the texts of the presentations, summaries of the discussions that followed the presentations, and elaboration of the themes that emerged during the conference. The proceedings should be published during late spring of 2007.
Following the conference, the participants met in a special session to discuss past and future international collaboration involving Iran.
The programs sponsored by the National Academies and the Iranian Academy of Sciences were reviewed. Unfortunately, the Iranian Academy of Medical Sciences was not represented, and therefore their interests were not presented. Looking to the future, it was suggested that the emphasis be given to a continuation of past inter-academy collaborative activities that have been successful rather than initiating completely new activities given that many past activities have opened new doors for collaboration. An interesting suggestion for a new activity was a multilateral conference in Iran on science education at the level of secondary schools.
Glenn E. Schweitzer
July 21, 2006