STS Forum in Kyoto
Currently participating at the STS (Science and Technology for Society) Forum in Kyoto, which is being held for the 12th time. Many of the problems society is facing today are the result of science and technology – which at the same time can only be solved by science and technology. Therefore there is a need for these global forums for informal dialogue, and that's how STS once started. From a modest start, it has grown to a gigantic event with more than one thousand participants.
Researchers and university bureaucrats, politicians and policy professionals, business and media come to the STS Forum. It's foremost an arena for networking of all kinds, an Eldorado for friends of mingling, where the most important interactions probably happen in the breaks. In the opening panel this time, no less than three Prime Ministers took part, Shinzo Abe from Japan, Manuel Valls from France and Ranil Wickremesinghe from Sri Lanka.
The Swedish delegation broke its attendance record this year thanks to the President meeting in Tokyo. The Minister for Higher Education and Research, Helene Hellmark Knutsson, offered a breakfast meeting. Later the same day, she took part in a panel about the role of the universities, where she mainly spoke about her most passionate concern, equality. Here it is exceptionally justified. During the day's four plenary sessions with 26 participants in total, (the last two held at the same time), there was only one woman, the Minister herself, in one of the two parallel panels. The coming days are no different. However, there were several gentlemen who made calls for more "women in colorful attire" (!), preferably in the company of "foreigners" or "minorities".
Among the most interesting was a speech by John Holdren, Director of the ”White House Office of Science and Technology Policy” who sharply criticized the misguided commercial requirements that obscure the need for sound investments in basic research, and strongly emphasized the need for sustainability and rationality in research funding. A main issue, he mentioned, is the widespread lack of interest in education for mathematics and science, in which he added that the rapidly growing interest in new forms of learning may eventually contribute to a solution.
The increase in collaborations and partnerships, both between nations, between universities and in relation to the business community and civil society, he also considered a strength, as well as the access to big data which opens up completely new research opportunities. Holdren's comments gave a lot to think about, not at least from a Swedish perspective.
October 9, 2015