Moscow fêtes young scientists’ contribution to innovation, education and environment

24 May 2001 - Over 300 young scientists from around the world met recently to discuss some key issues for their future – and that of society.

From 13 to 17 November 2000, some 308 secondary pupils, post-graduate students, researchers, faculty, engineers and other specialists met together in Moscow (Russian Federation) with representatives of Ministries and international organizations to discuss contemporary issues at the science–society interface.

The November conference owed its existence to the success of an initial follow-up meeting to the World Conference on Science held in 1999. Both Conferences were organized by the International Centre of Educational Systems (ICES), in collaboration with UNESCO.

As its title suggests, the Second International Conference on Young Scientists’ Contribution to Industry, Science, Technologies and Vocational Education for Sustainable Development: Problems and New Solutions set itself a rich agenda.

The conference was organized into four sessions. A first group debated the philosophical and educational problems the human–nature interface posed for sustainable development. Presentations analysed social trends resulting from a restructuring of the economy, education and lifestyles. Some spoke to the topic of educating the ‘person of the future’, others analysed the adverse impact of mass media on the forming of a social outlook – television attracting the most vocal criticism. Participants were clearly preoccupied by the expansion among youth of drug addiction, low morale, early smoking and alcohol habits, and by the loss of a vocation for science and of value criteria.

A second group tackled the modelling and improvement of business processes, with a large number of reports on electronic technologies. Compared with the 1999 conference, there were fewer presentations on the fundamental sciences or on experimental programmes to develop new technologies which require high-capital investments.

Interestingly, the session on geo-ecology attracted twice as many participants as in 1999. This was perhaps due to a keener sensitivity to environmental issues on the part of the scientific and technical community. Several presentations dealt with improving the techniques for oil and natural gas development, in order to reduce waste and the adverse environmental impact.

On the theme of the management of development, presentations took a more practical orientation than in 1999, with problems being formulated in the context of specific joint stock companies, such as those in the fuel and energy sector.

Whereas the First International Conference had been very much a regional conference with participants hailing from Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizie, Moldava and the Russian Federation, this time, invitations were also extended to young scientists from Azerbaïjan, Benin, Ghana, Kenya, China, Morocco, Nigeria and Syria, in an attempt to inspire developing countries to launch a similar experience under the auspices of UNESCO.

The idea seems to have caught on. It is understood that the Republic of Benin is entertaining the possibility of hosting its own Young Scientists Conference in the near future.

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