Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An invitation to discuss how to mobilize science, technology and innovation for global challenges

How can we develop an international strategy for international collaboration in science, technology and innovation to meet global challenges?

To subscribers of the Beyond STIG mailing list and readers of the Beyond STIG blog.

Photo: Jacob Wackerhausen
I refer to the Paris workshop on science diplomacy  in February this year and the follow up to the OECD-project on the governance of international STI-collaboration for global challenges (STIG).

As many of you will know, we have set up this blog for dissemination of information on this topic. I have added two blog posts on the seminar here and here.

Now is the time to discuss future efforts in this area.

I would  like to share with you the notes Klaus Matthes,the Science Adviser to the German embassy in Paris, made from the workshop.  Not only do these notes included important points made during the presentations and the following discussions. They also includes general observation as regards the needs for future action in this field.

Klaus Matthes makes the following observation:

“Considering that science diplomacy is still a vague and nebulous policy term - especially concerning the relevant activities of the German and French government - we believe, that it might be helpful, if science itself takes it up as a research project with the goal to make concrete proposals what governments could or should undertake. My idea - according to our STIG-approach - is to ask competent scientists in interested countries to work on this in an open network, supported by OECD-CSTP or by ICSU.”

His proposal addresses two important pressing needs identified by the STIG-project: The need to identify urgent challenges requiring an STI response, and  finding ways to make this urgency felt in the global public arena.

My question to you is this: Do you think this is the right way of addressing these problems? Do you have other suggestions as regards future action in this area?

I suggest you add comments and proposals as comments to this blog post. (Click on "comments" below!).

Best regards,

Per Koch
Former Chair of the OECD STIG


  1. I guess I can kick off this debate myself.

    One important topic that popped up repeatedly in the STIG discussions were this one: Who are best positioned to determine what kind of knowledge, technologies and competences the global society needs when facing various challenges?

    There are many stakeholders:

    - Scientists and institutions for research, development and higher education
    - Companies and industrial organizations
    - NGOs and the civil society
    - Policy makers and politicians
    - Civil servants and public sector institutions
    - The public at large

    I am sure they all have insigths that need to be taken into consideration.

    The Paris workshop clearly demonstrated that both science and industry may be caught up in various forms for lock-ins that hinder new activities. The reduction in investments in antibiotics reseach comes to mind, as does an academic incentive structure that undermines trans-disciplinary research.

    I found that one of the strengths of STIG was that researchers and policy experts met face to face discussing governance and the role of STI and society. They brought complementary competences to the table.

    A cynic may argue that asking the scientists to identify the most important challenges and what to do about them is not a good idea, as they all have vested interest in this area. "Give me more money!"

    I am not that cynic and know for a fact that science has great many idealists that would do their best to provide good and unbiased advice in this area.

    Given that we find many of the leading experts on global challenges in academia, we have further reason for asking them to kick off the game.

    If we do it this way, it will be important to involve other stake holders later on, though.

    Alternatively we may consider an effort that involves experts of different types from day one, and include public institutions, NGOs and industry.

    1. I like the idea of challengig the scientific community on pressing global issues and creative new ideas to handle the challenges. Take the example of mitigating human-induced climate change, where the gap between knowledge and policy implementation is wider than ever before. The bottleneck is not foremost knowledge of feasible solutions in technical and economic terms, but feasible solutions in political and social terms. We need "social and political engineering". Present institiutions and political structures cannot handle the climate challenge. Quarreling between 195 states with different interests and views, and based on mypoic and narrow perspectives is not a recipe for a finding and agreeing on a solution. Humankind must better adapt to the limits of nature and act in a rational and coordinated manner, not as a pack of egoistic single actors. The challenge for science is this: What social, institutional and political innovations could make all states of World handle human-induced climate change in rational and coordinated manner?