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|Iran proposes Regional Centre on Urban Water Management|
The Aide-Mémoire was signed on 4 December 2000 during a UNESCO mission to Iran in response to at responding to the request by of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) that the IHP Secretariat lend assistance to preparation of the proposal. Organized by the Ministry of Energy, the programme included interviews with the authorities, academic institutions and private sector concerns, as well as appointments with the Ministers of Energy and of Science, Research and Technology, and with the Head of Parliament’s Civil Works Committee.
It emerged from the mission that the Government of Iran is clearly strongly committed to hosting a Regional Center on Urban Water Management. The Government has created a Task Force of top government officials and IHP National Committee representatives headed by the Senior Vice-Minister of Energy, gathered a large segment of the governmental, scientific, academic and professional water community of Iran behind the project and already invested close to $300,000 in preliminary activities and in acquiring and equipping the initial venue. In addition, the Government has initiated a number of contacts conducive to gathering regional and international support for the Centre, including that of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a subregional intergovernmental body, and of the IHP National Committee of the Russian Federation.
At the time the National Commission of Iran to UNESCO first raised the idea in 1999, the initiative was welcomed by the Director-General of UNESCO, who invited Iran to submit a detailed proposalto the Organization’s General Conference at its 30th. The Secretariat of the IHP was then asked by the General Conference to assist the Government of Iran in preparing a more detailed submission to the autumn 2000 session of UNESCO’s Executive Board. The Intergovernmental Council of the IHP at its 14th session (Paris, June 2000) also welcomed the Iranian proposal to establish the centre, considering that it would strengthen the region’s research, education and professional capacities and enhance public awareness of urban water management. The next step will be for the proposal to gain approval at the spring 2001 session of the Executive Board before it is submitted to the General Conference at its 31st sesssion in October this year for final adoption.
Although the Government of Iran will be the main funding sourceprovide for the running of the centre, some assistance has been requested from UNESCO, particularly during the start-up period. The Government of Iran perceives UNESCO’s role in this endeavour as one of helping to establish a centre of excellence with a regional character for the centre, which would serve primarily Central Asian countries, and of helping to gain access to international technical assistance and funding sources.
Freshwater and the hydrological cycle was one of the priorities of the World Conference on Science in the environmental sciences. The Science Agenda calls for a strengthening of regional cooperation, particularly that between between neighbouring countries or among countries having similar ecological conditions (para.29).
The initiative also follows up the recommendation that ‘each country assess and so identify the health improvement priorities that are best suited to their own circumstances. National and regional research programmes aimed at reducing variations in health among communities ... should be introduced (para.26).’
|Proceedings available of Geo-environment Conference in Oman|
Organized by the Department of Civil Engineering of Sultan Qaboos University in cooperation with the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO) and UNESCO, the Conference chose as its central theme the challenge of resolving environmental problems related to subsurface and surface–subsurface interacting domains, taking as its starting point the numerous opportunities offered by emerging technologies and their applications to enhance the efficiency, productivity and quality of the geo-environment.
A total of 52 papers have been selected by the scientific committee for the Proceedings. These focus on pollution sources leading to the contamination of ground water, the movement and fate of these contaminants in soil and ground water and the techniques for clean-up and remediation of contaminated aquifers.
Other topics discussed at the Conference include the applications of geographical informaton systems (GIS) and remote sensing as tools for studying the subsurface environment, as well as the laws and regulations governing subsurface pollution.
Papers were delivered at the Conference by specialists from Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In addition, a number of keynote addresses were made by invited speakers from UNESCO, the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Oman.
The workshop follows up the recommendation from the World Conference on Science that ‘cooperaton between neighbouring countries or among countries having similar ecological conditions be supported in the solution of common environmental problems’ (para.29, Science Agenda).
For further information, please write to the Permanent Delegation of the Sultanate of Oman: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Scientific community concerned recent initiatives will widen rather than close digital divide|
In his introductory speech to the Second International Conference on Electronic Publishing in Science held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris (France) last month (see WCS Newsletter, 27 February 2001) Professor Yoshikawa recalled ICSU’s attachment to ‘the protection and promotion of full and open access to scientific data and information for research and education’. He stated that ICSU had been drawing the attention of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, and the European Union to the serious problem posed by recent initiatives.
‘ICSU has had to express its great concern regarding the special agreement between Science and Celera’ he declared, ‘which has led to an apparent break with the widely endorsed international consensus on the release of all genetic data related to a published article. While this has led to some very exciting new information being made available on genetic sequencing, ICSU – and the ICSU family – remains deeply concerned about the possible consequences for the principle of full and open access to data for research and education in future’. ICSU has proposed a multi-stakeholder review.
Professor Yoshikawa cited another ‘worrisome’ example, that of the European Union Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases (96/9/EC). ICSU and its Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) are spearheading an awareness-building campaign of the threat to equitable access to data and information posed by the Directive in its current form.
Ferris Webster, Chair of the ICSU/CODATA ad-hoc Group on Data and Information, was at the Conference. He recalls how, ‘when the Directive was originally adopted by the Council of the European Communities and the European Parliament back in 1996, it took scientists and scientific groups all around the world by surprise. ’Member States have been implementing the Directive since 1 January 1998’, notes Webster, ‘but in a manner that varies from state to state. Some have passed conforming laws without traditional fair-use protection, and the way science is now practised could be seriously harmed.’
Of particular concern is the article in the Directive dealing with fair use of databases for research and education. ICSU would like to see the fair-use provisions made mandatory rather than optional, re-utilization of data allowed, the requirement to indicate the source of all data removed and the fair-use concept extended to include research carried out by commercial entities.
ICSU is pinning its hopes on a revision of the controversial Directive scheduled to take place in 2001 on the basis of information supplied by Member States. Upon completion of the revision, the European Commission may submit a report to the European Parliament proposing adjustments to the Directive in line with developments in the area of databases. This would be the occasion for the scientific community to make its voice heard.
The implications of the Directive from a science and technology perspective are that it creates an unprecedented, absolute exclusive property right in the contents of databases that contradicts the underlying premise of classical intellectual property law which says no-one should own factual data as such; it relies on a broad and inclusive definition of databases that potentially covers almost everything on the Internet; it conveys an exclusive property right to the content of all databases even if these fail to qualify for copyright protection. This right lasts for an initial period of 15 years and can be extended indefinitely whenever updates or substantial investments are added; it has no requirement for public-interest exceptions (individual Member States have the discretion to adopt some limited exceptions when implementing the Directive); it provides for no mandatory provisions that would require sole source providers to make data available on reasonable terms and conditions; it contains a reciprocity clause that denies equal protection under the law in Europe to foreign data vendors, unless their respective nations have adopted similar laws for protecting databases; and it establishes the potential of strong penalties for infringement.
The Directive clearly swims against the tide of the World Conference on Science, which endorsed the right of ‘all countries [to] protect intellectual property rights, while recognizing that access to data and information is essential for scientific progress.’ (para.65, Science Agenda)
‘Unlike copyright’, Webster warns, ‘the Directive may extend to the protection of facts. A database might no longer need to have original selection, coordination or arrangement to be protected. Facts themselves would be protected from unauthorized use. Even though the Directive would permit fair use of data for research and education as an exception, the exception is narrowly drawn and not all Member States have enacted a fair-use provision into their domestic law. The definition of terms in the Directive is so general that it is at the moment nearly impossible to judge how the Directive will be applied.’
|ICET setting up committee on tertiary technology education|
The Paris-based Council, the founding members of which are the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) and International Union of Technical Associations and Organizations (UATI), is creating COMIEST within the framework of an agreement signed with UNESCO on 16 March 1999.
The acronym stands for Comité international de l’enseignement supérieur des technologies. COMIEST will aim essentially to promote dialogue between the technical and humanist worlds. The publication of a world report on technology figures among its initial projects.
Source: ICET, fax: (331) 43 06 6625, for further information, contact also email@example.com
|Ethical issues in biotechnology and biosafety to be debated in China|
1 March 2001 - Just weeks after completion of the mapping of the human genome, a two-day workshop is to open in Hangzhou (China) on the theme of Ethical Issues related to Biotechnology and Biosafety.
The workshop is being organized later this month by the Institute of Genetics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in close co-operation with the UNESCO Beijing Office, the Qingdao-based Biotechnology Education and Training Centre (Betcen) and Microbiological Resources Centre (Mircen) in Bejing. A number of non-governmental organizations will be represented among the international participants and one member of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee is travelling to the event.
The workshop follows up the recommendation from the World Conference on Science that ‘research institutions foster the study of ethical aspects of scientific work’ (para.72, Science Agenda).
Taking the Universal Declaration on Human Genome and Human Rights as a starting point, the workshop will focus on: free access to the human genome sequences; benefit-sharing of genetic resources in developing countries; ethics, intellectual property and genomics; application of genetic information and genetic measures; biotechnology, biodiversity and biosafety; embryonic stem cells and reproductive cloning; education and dissemination of bio-ethical principles.
Besides providing an opportunity for participants to exchange views and experiences, the workshop should give public awareness of these important topics ‘a great boost’, particuarly in China.
|Commercial publisher recognizes appeal of differential pricing|
Some 250 experts from around the world representing all links in the science information chain – publishers, librarians, scientists, copyright specialists, etc. – were meeting at UNESCO Headquarters from 20 to 23 February 2001 to take stock of developments in electronic publishing in science since the first conference was held in 1996 and to prepare guidelines for best practices that will range from standardization of citation, through peer review and integrity to archiving of the scientific record (see also WCS Newsletter, 22 November 2000).
Differential pricing for electronic science journals figured among the best practices recommended by the Conference. In presenting a publisher’s view on the final day, Derk Haank took up this theme, explaining why – in addition to widening access to science – the recommendation also made sound commercial sense.
‘When circulation of a scientific electronic journal drops because those less interested in the journal fail to renew their subscription’, he said, ‘the journal is forced to increase its prices, which only further limits circulation. By proposing differential pricing calculated according to the means of a given university, corporation or library, both reader and publisher stand to gain. The university library in Zimbabwe, for example, is able to maintain its subscription and the journal becomes better known while bringing in healthy revenue.’
Besides economic models for electronic publishing, the Conference recommendations address the impact on science of new legislation governing copyright and databases, the role non-profit organizations can play, referencing and retrieval of scientific articles, ethical and privacy issues affecting the biomedical sciences, among others, and ways of seizing the potential offered by the new technologies to improve the two-way exchange of information between North and South, and between countries of the South. As Richard Smith, Editor of the British Medical Journal put it, the digital divide is the most important ethical issue in electronic publishing today.
The conference proceedings are to be published – electronically of course – at the UNESCO website.
|Is urban water management heading towards a deadlock?|
23 February 2001 - Will water-related problems in cities become insurmountable this century or are there signs for hope? This question is being asked by an international symposium being convened in Marseille (France) this summer by UNESCO and the Académie de l’eau of France, with the support of the City of Marseille and World Water Council.
The question is particularly relevant with respect to rapidly expanding large cities in developing countries, where imported ‘solutions’ from cities in the developed world are unrealistic and where alternative approaches to water supply and sanitation need to be investigated.
Organized from 18 to 20 June 2001, Frontiers in Urban Water Management: deadlock or hope? falls within the broad objectives of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and those of the World Conference on Science. The symposium targets urban water planners and managers around the world, some 300 of whom are expected at the event.
‘Interdisciplinarity’ and ‘interaction’ are the key concepts of a symposium proposing an integrated approach to urban water management. Problems will be examined in their socio-economic context and solutions according to their applicability to cities in both industrialized and developing countries.
A succession of workshops have been designed to stimulate thinking on how cities should adapt in future if they are to withstand the pressures on water supply, sanitation services and other water-dependent systems.
Technologies for the cities of the future will be one focus, as will technology transfer both to and from the developing countries. Other workshop themes include reclamation of saline or brackish water, wastewater recyling, the consequences of water on health, demand management, conflict resolution and mitigation of urban flooding.
The symposium’s ambitions go beyond simply ensuring survival in the urban environment to making cities better places to live. Ultimately, the symposium is expected to produce guidelines for sustainable development and solutions to current problems.
After diagnosing the status of urban water today, the symposium will venture a prognosis. Are there signs for hope – or are we heading for a deadlock?
For further information, contact J.A. Tejada-Guibert at Symposium2001@unesco.org
|Israel and UNESCO launch post-doctoral fellowship programme|
The scheme is part of Israel’s follow-up to the World Conferences on Higher Education (Paris, 1998) and on Science. In Budapest, participants called upon ‘Governments [to] provide increased support to regional and international programmes of higher education and to networking of graduate and postgraduate institutions, with special emphasis on North-South and South-South cooperation, since they are important means of helping all countries, especially the smaller or least developed among them, to strengthen their scientific and technological resource base (para.45, Science Agenda).
The post-doctoral fellowship programme has been established by the Planning and Budgeting Committee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israel National Commission for UNESCO. Candidates apply directly to the Israeli university of their choice. The fellowships target researchers who demonstrate outstanding intellectual promise, imagination and personal commitment, and who may be expected to make a significant contribution to their country upon their return.
In preparation for its opening later this year, the Centre has received US$200,000 from Chonbuk National University. This initial investment from the host institution will provide for the computers, interfaces, sensors and laboratory equipment essential for the development of IT-based science teaching approaches within a framework of regional and international co-operation.
The proposal for a UNESCO Centre for IT-based Science Education has received enthusiastic support from representatives of member countries of AsPEN (Asian Physics Education Network), a body which promotes the overall development of university physics education in Asia.
The proposed Centre is also sure to appeal to partners in the World Conference on Science, for it implements one of their recommendations. Paragraph 20 of the Science Agenda namely calls on ‘research and education institutions ... to take account of the new information and communication technologies, assess their impact and promote their use, for example through... the establishment of virtual ... teaching environments.’
Paragraph 20 goes on to say, ‘science curricula should be adapted to take into account the impact of these new technologies on scientific work. The establishment of an international programme on Internet-enabled science and vocational education and teaching, alongside the conventional system, should be considered in order to redress the limitations of educational infrastructure and to bring high-quality science education to remote locations.’
further information, contact M.Alarcon in the UNESCO Jakarta Office:
|Vietnam elaborating National Action Plan to implement Budapest agenda|
9 February 2001 - Vietnam is in the process of drafting a National Action Plan which will translate into concrete action the recommendations of the World Conference on Science.
The Action Plan will focus on three priority issues: the use of science and technologies for poverty reduction; promoting the role of women in science; and making the best use of local scientific knowledge and improving policy mechanisms for the management and development of science. The Plan will also draw on the content of a Technical Co-operation Agreement signed between the Government of SR Vietnam and UNESCO on 25 October 1999.
Vietnam has expressed the wish ‘to see international/regional seminars and conferences convened by UNESCO for an exchange between member countries on implementing National Action Plans’.
Since the World Conference on Science, the Government of Vietnam has ensured that the Declaration and Science Agenda reach a wide audience at home. Both documents have been translated and extensively disseminated through the national media.
For further information, contact Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, SR Vietnam, Fax: (844) 825 2733 or (844) 924 2987
|First ‘Olympics for Engineers’ launches series of world reports|
As UNESCO’s Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, explains in his introduction to the report, ‘The Memorandum represents the first issue of a continuing World Engineering and Technology Report series’. The need for a regular report on engineering and technology worldwide was recognized by the World Conference on Science, which recommended that ‘a World Technology Report ... be considered in order to provide a balanced world opinion on the impact of technology on social systems and culture’ (para. 57, Science Agenda).
Organized jointly by the VDI and EXPO 2000 GmbH from 19 to 21 June 2000 in Hannover (Germany), under the theme of ‘Humankind – Nature – Technology’, the World Engineers’ Convention attracted some 3,500 engineers from 44 countries. The goal was to define an ‘engineer’s vision’ of key future issues concerning humankind and to put these up for public debate. For VDI, the Convention ‘built many bridges and crossed many barriers – for example between industrial and developing countries, between the generations and between the different specialist fields. The networking that took place there was especially evident in the five parallel Professional Congresses on Mobility, Energy, Information and Communication, Environment – Climate – Health and The Future of Work.’
WFEO has decided to hold a World Engineers’ Convention every four years, a timetable which has given rise to the nickname of ‘Olympics for Engineers’. During the ‘final’ of the World Engineers’ Convention 2000 in Hannover, the ‘relay baton’ was passed by VDI President Professor Dr.-Ing. Hubertus Christ to a high-calibre Chinese delegation in preparation for the next World Engineers’ Convention in 2004 in Shanghai (China).
|Conference of Ministers of Research and Development opens in Cameroon|
Todays meeting comes two years after the First Conference of Ministers of Research and Development of West and Central Africa (Yaoundé, 15 and 16 January 1999), attended by Ministers from Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Associated with the World Conference on Science, the 1999 meeting had examined sustainable funding of research, the potential of NICTs for launching virtual universities, and agricultural and environmental research, in addition to preparing for the World Conference on Science.
Sustainable funding of research emerged as a central concern of the Africa Group in Budapest. At the time, Cameroons Minister of Scientific and Technical Research, Professor Henri Hogbe Nlend, had confided to the science journal Nature that he was pleased the final text of the Declaration acknowledged the need for new funding mechanisms at both national and regional levels and with the direct reference to the possibility of establishing a formal link between the debt burden of developing countries and using the money freed up [through debt relief] to finance science and technology (see WCS Newsletter, 30 June 2000). He had been disappointed, though, that no specific target was mentioned in the final documents. Citing a hypothetical figure of 1% of gross national product devoted to research, he had commented, Once a target is fixed, you can then tell governments that the money they allocate to science is too small in comparison to what other countries are spending.
According to Nlend, the meeting of African ministers during the World Conference on Science was the largest such meeting since the mid-1970s. We think, he had pursued, that the spirit of continental cooperation in science is now very important. We should support not only cooperation between industrialized countries and developing nations, but also between countries in Africa itself. Such inter-African cooperation is important, particularly as it gives you an opportunity to know what your neighbours are doing.
The holding of a Second COMRED/AOC demonstrates Central and West Africas on-going commitment to regional cooperation as a means of fostering research and development. The general theme of the First COMRED/AOC was for Africa to give fresh impetus to African research and reappropriate it for the benefit of the African peoples in the context of globalization. The theme has lost none of its relevance today. (version française)
For further information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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