How can national academies work together to tackle global issues?

On Thursday 25 Janaury 2018, RSE President, Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, welcomed representatives of national academies, and other learned societies, from Canada, Australia and many parts of Europe, for a day of discussion about how national academies could help tackle a series of key global issues. The agenda covered climate change, refugees and migration, the ageing population and sustainable development.

Professor Marian Scott OBE, RSE Vice-President (International), who chaired the event, said bold action is needed to tackle a series of global issues and that national academies have a valuable role to play, but they need to revolutionise what they do and show leadership for the sake of current and future generations.

The morning was given over to a series of presentations around the identified global issues; the afternoon sessions considered the key question through a presentation and two panel discussions.

Session 1: Key Global Challenges

Climate Change
Professor Gabi Hegerl FRSE, FRS, Professor of Climate System Science, University of Edinburgh

Refugees and Migration
Professor Alison Phipps OBE FRSE, UNESCO Chair, University of Glasgow

The Ageing Population
Siobhan O’Connor, Lecturer at the School of Health and Social Care, Edinburgh Napier University and Member of the Young Academy of Scotland

Sustainable Development
Professor Roger Crofts CBE FRSE, Chair of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society

Session 2: Global Public Health

Challenges and Leadership
Professor Peter Boyle FRSE, Former Director, International Agency for Research on Cancer

Session 3: How can national academies work together to tackle global issues?

ALLEA’s role in terms of tackling global challenges
Professor Antonio Loprieno, incoming President of ALLEA (the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and the Humanities).

Panel sessions

1. How can national academies rally their own fellows, individually and across disciplines, to engage with global challenges?
Convenor – Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Learned Society of Wales;
Professor Andrew Holmes, Australian Academy of Science;
Professor Peter Samuely, Slovak Academy of Sciences;
Professor Peter Kennedy, Royal Irish Academy;
Professor Jerry Duszynski, Polish Academy of Sciences.

2. How can national academies work together effectively to engage with global challenges?
Convenor – Professor Ole Sejersted, Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters;
Professor Chad Gaffield, The Royal Society of Canada;
Professor Eva Zazimalova, Czech Academy of Sciences;
Professor Tadej Bajd, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts;
Professor Jaak Jarv, Estonian Academy of Sciences.

In concluding the business of the day, Professor Scott summed up the discussions by saying they had highlighted several themes, including lack of leadership on tackling global challenges, lack of trust in science and a feeling of disenfranchisment of communities all around the world. Professor Scott said there is a huge challenge over how to reach out to people of different ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. Part of this involves doing more to diversify membership – including attracting more women and younger people.

Together, the academies form a huge group of citizens; their greatest resource is people and they need to work harder to activate their energy and enthusiasm. Between them, they are in a position to offer leadership in the search for solutions to global challenges.

The day began with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the RSE and the Australian Academy of Science to promote and strengthen co-operation between the Academies and between researchers in Australia and Scotland (pictured l-r) Professor Marian Scott; Professor Andrew Holmes; Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

Read the summary report of the presentations and discussions here.