Address delivered during FORUM III
by Dr A.J. Carty
I would like to add my words of appreciation on behalf of the Canadian delegation to the speakers who preceded me and thank Hungary for the hospitality that we have all received since our arrival in Budapest. The Hungarian government and particularly the organizing committee deserve our most sincere thanks and congratulations.
I would also like to express our appreciation to UNESCO and ICSU for undertaking an initiative of this magnitude.
Indeed, the timing of the conference is propitious because the relationship between science and society at large has not evolved at the same pace.
The shortcomings of science must be recognized and addressed and this can only be accomplished with improved communications between the scientific and other elements of society. There are many challenges facing the world to which science can make an essential contribution. But to do so, scientists have to have a better understanding of the social and ethical implications of their work, and all sectors of society have to become more educated to the realities of scientific endeavour.
Many countries have taken steps to ensure that this happens and Canada feels it is important to share the best practices developed to date. Actions to do this should be a key element of the conference's follow up as part of the "Framework for Action".
Over the last three years, the Canadian government has substantially re-invested in science, technology and innovation across the research spectrum. This has included increased funding for the granting councils, for student scholarships, women faculty, new research infrastructure, Networks of Centres of Excellence, Institutes of Health Research, biotechnology, and support for small and medium enterprises. This is providing a major impetus to the generation and application of knowledge, for the development of an innovative, knowledged-based economy.
Canada fully supports the principles included in the Draft Declaration and Framework for Action to make science completely open to all elements of society. We believe that conceptual and structural barriers to participation by minorities, disadvantaged groups, youth or women represent a tremendous loss to what science can achieve, and we applaud the position that has been taken here on these questions.
We also recognize that, while removing barriers is essential, it is but the first of a number of steps which must be undertaken. In particular, communications and the means for transferring available knowledge have to be improved.
Canada is fortunate in that it has made a commitment to be one of the most connected country in the world by the end of this decade through initiatives such as SchoolNet, a partnership between the public and the private sectors committed to connect all schools and libraries in Canada to the Internet; and CANARIE, an all-optical advanced network which provides the backbone for high-speed, high band-width communications for applications in research, industry and education, across the country.
Canada would be happy to share the lessons we have learned from our experience in this area.
We would also like to stress the importance we attach to the inclusion of ethics as a fundamental value and element guiding all decisions relating to scientific activity.
The implications of science for the world at large are far too important to allow this basic consideration to be seen as a mere afterthought or even worse, as someone else's responsibility. Canada fully supports the inclusion of strong provisions on ethics in both the Declaration and the Framework for Action.
We are also pleased that the Declaration and Framework for Action encompass the science and knowledge resident in the various cultures and societies of this planet. The Draft Declaration specifically highlights the contribution of indigenous peoples of the world to science and technology throughout history, and the need to continue the sharing of this traditional knowledge.
Canada also wants to stress the need to take full advantage of what science has to offer by ensuring that, through innovation, new knowledge is harnessed for the benefit of society and econmic growth.
Innovation in science and technology has led to dramatic improvements in life expectancy, medical treatment, energy efficiency, environmental monitoring and remediation and enhanced communications. But innovation is no longer a linear process. It is a complex phenomenon that demands partnerships and linkages across all levels of society and should be recognized as a critically important tool for economic, human and social development.
Canada also wants to stress the importance of international collaboration at all stages of scientific research and development.
International cooperation facilitates the sharing of complementary scientific capabilities and maximises the use of scarce resources, enhancing synergy, raising the level of excellence and increasing the potential for scientific breakthroughs which will benefit people throughout the world.
Canada has long appreciated the value of collaboration and partnership between researchers in universities, government and the private sector and programs such as the Network of Centers of Excellence, can serve as a model for future international cooperation. With rapid advances in telecommunication technologies, the barriers of distance and time no longer pose a major obstacle to the sharing of knowledge and the
pursuit of international collaboration. Indeed, in many areas of major scientific endeavours such as astronomy, particle physics, space, antartic and polar research, progress at the leading edge of science can only be pursued through the sharing of resources on an international scale.
Canada has recently extended its international outreach through the initiatives of the National Research Council. And we will also be expanding other programs such as the Networks of Centres of Excellence to the international arena through the federal research councils. We look forward to the benefits this will bring to the advancement of science and technology through international partnerships.
In summary, this conference has not hesitated to head directly at the heart of the key issues which face science today: gender balance, elimination of exclusivity, protecting the planet for future generations, imbedding ethics into the practice of science and international cooperation are just a few of the areas discussed during the conference. Canada looks forward to science and society being the winners as we move ahead in these areas.