World Association of Young Scientists (WAYS)

WAYS was launched by UNESCO in 2004 as follow-up to the World Conference on Science (1999). The idea for a support network for young scientists had first germinated at the conference itself, during the International Forum of Young Scientists organized by UNESCO as a satellite event.

Ever since its inception, WAYS has worked to empower young scientists worldwide under the age of 40. Over time, it became apparent however that the word ‘Academy’ could be misleading, as it suggested a more select membership. In April 2008, it was decided to change the name from ‘Academy’ to ‘Association’ to reflect better the network’s social dimension.

WAYS was launched in Marrakech on 11-13 December with the help of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Moroccan Ministry of Higher Education and the Moroccan National Commission for UNESCO. Some 150 young scientists from 87 countries flocked to the historic city for the occasion. A round table on "Science contributing to the dialogue among civilizations : the young scientists perspective" was organized during the inaugural meeting of WAYS. On that occasion it was strongly recognized that dialogue is a constituent element present in science and particularly highlighted the requirements of communication and mutual understanding for science cooperation.

Today, WAYS has more than 3000 members originating from more than 120 countries and is growing daily, despite the difficulties in maintaining and developing such a diverse and extended network on a shoe-string budget: WAYS is run by a small team of volunteers.

‘Such a window on the world seems to be particularly appreciated by our members based in Africa,’ comments WAYS President Gaell Mainguy, ‘where WAYS is the first network of young scientists across the continent. This no doubt explains why one-third of our members are African.’

After registering online, new members are each given a space in which to display their curriculum vitae and current interests, as well as a personal blog through which to express themselves. Other collaborative tools enable them to share information, post and search for jobs and meetings, seek advice, meet like-minded people and so on.

‘WAYS is a social network, a kind of scientific Facebook’, smiles Mainguy. ‘We help young scientists keep in touch via Internet. In doing so, we are also providing institutions everywhere with a ‘catalogue’ of fresh faces in science and engineering, at a time when disaffection for careers in science has somewhat inversed the age pyramid.’

Established networks can be hosted freely by the WAYS portal and are attributed their own space. The Permafrost Young Researchers Network was launched during the current International Polar Year, for example, to recruit, retain and promote future generations of permafrost researchers. It is hosted by WAYS.

Other complementary platforms include the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development, founded by a WAYS member from India, and the World Lecture Project launched by WAYS members in Germany; this online library of more than 700 video lectures in any language and from any scientific field provides scientists and research institutions with an international platform for publicizing their lectures.

But WAYS is much more than a virtual network. ‘Through its African regional office, WAYS has expanded from the virtual into the real world’, explains Mainguy. ‘In March this year, the Scholar Ship Research Institute and WAYS organized a capacity-building workshop for young African scientists in Cape Town (South Africa). Participants from 14 different countries learned about Open Source software applications and Open Access databases to help their wider dissemination in Africa.’

On the launch of WAYS in December 2004:

WAYS General Conference
Young researchers meet in Marrakech for World Academy (Nature, January 2005)
The opinions of young scientists should be canvassed ( interview in A World of Science, April 2005)

Contact the focal point at UNESCO

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