Forum of Young Scientists
Budapest, Hungary, 23-24 June 1999
23 rd and 24 h June 1999 150 young scientists (average age 25) from
57 countries met at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at the International
Forum of Young Scientists, a satellite conference of the UNESCO-ICSU
World Conference on Science. After two days of discussions the participants
adopted the following statement, which they wish to submit to the
World Conference on Science.
Summary of major recommendations
participants of the Forum established the International Forum of Young
Scientists as a continuous platform to discuss general issues and
challenges to science. They hope that the World Conference on Science
will recognize this new body, and request that UNESCO and ICSU involve
the Forum in their ongoing programmes.
participants of the Forum also recommend that:
increase their responsibility to inform the public openly about
research and its wider implications and therefore learn communication
education at all levels be strengthened and scientists collaborate
presents science in a cross-disciplinary manner;
aspects be a part of all scientific undertaking and that a special
focus on ethics be included in all education programmes;
take full responsibility to provide help to the scientific communities
in less developed countries and urge their govermnents to support
long-term grants for fundamental research to maintain sustainable
assume increased responsibility for environment and development
scientists participate in decisions made about science.
Forum report and detailed recommendations
Let us imagine that distinguished scientists gathered in 1899 at a
conference in order to discuss the perspectives of science in the
next century. The optimism would have been high - the belief in the
omnipotence of science unshaken, the march towards an always happier
world, aided by science and technology uninhibited. These scientists
could not have imagined the discoveries which were to follow soon,
which pulled every firm ground from beneath their feet and which led
to the creation of totally new areas of science. They could not have
imagined the two terrible world wars in which science played a role
and which raised earlier unknown questions of conscience for scientists.
They could not have anticipated the unsolvable challenges posed by
envirorunental pollution, overpopulation and neither could they have
predicted the hitherto unprecedented presence of science and technology
in every nook and cranny of life. Probably only a genius could see
the coming developments in aerospace technology, life sciences, information
and communication technologies. These few introductory sentences should
warn us that looking at the events in a historical perspective, our
ability to foresee trends and developments is very limited and must
be treated with great care. What follows are the thoughts of young
scientists, who met at the end of the twentieth century to reflect
about science and its social implications as reflected in the Draft
Declaration on Science and the Science Agenda and Framework for Action
of the World Conference on Science.
Science and society
a democracy people have the right to contribute to the decisions
of society. However, to make their decisions, they need information.
Science can greatly help society to provide much of this information.
Therefore the public must be informed openly about research
and its wider implications. Science also has to meet and listen
to people's needs and each country's priorities. Therefore
the scientific community should have the right to discuss
research budget distribution with governments.
Education of communication skills will help scientists fulfil
their responsibility to provide information to other members
of society. However, one should never forget that science
is only one voice of those formulating the common will.
Although it is important that a scientist has a social conscience,
the ability of a scientist to increase happiness is limited.
A scientist or an engineer can address or solve only problems
of scientific or technological nature, whereas social scientists
can propose only specific policies or identify problems, which,
in many cases can indeed alleviate the hardships of people.
Nevertheless the other sources of human misery are beyond
the reach of the traditional domain of science. This is the
domain of value systems of a society which only the society
as a whole can change. Science is embedded in a social environment
and cannot. alone. bring about change. Ultimately, science
is not the only form of human knowledge. Traditional forms
of knowledge are equally valuable.
The bond between peace-efforts and the scientific community
should be strengthened. The year 2000, the International Year
of Culture of Peace, marks a good opportunity for this new
The relationship between science and education
countries' scientists should encourage governments to pay
more attention to wider access of primary and continuous education.
A holistic approach to education can bring an early understanding
of science and its impact on the environment, whereas an illiterate
society can hardly understand the work of scientists.
institutions of higher education, a deterioration of standards
can be observed. University staff are judged almost exclusively
on the basis of scientific work. Good teaching is often not
rewarded in career tenns, and the real losers of this process
are the students. Educational activities have to be valued
more. Institutions should ensure that all members of the academic
community engaged in education are provided with appropriate
training, resources and support. There is an increasing
economic pressure on most universities. In many countries
universities, in an attempt to be more efficient, are being
reorganised along the lines of companies. Although there are
a few positive effects of this, the main consequences are
that expenditures are cut so that staff is reduced, while
the number of students is largely increased. Wider access
to higher education, however, should be accompanied with efforts
to maintain standards.
serious efforts are certainly needed to make the scientific
results marketable, and inform the public more adequately. We
believe that scientists must accept the essential moral obligation
to spend a considerable amount of time as educators and/or collaborate
with educators in order to raise the level of scientific and
technological literacy, starting with the education of young
children in schools. However, the independence of the educational
system and educators must be preserved and appreciated.
The entrance of new generations to science is highly random
and too heavily influenced by subjective factors. Only a few
systematic attempts are made to draw the best and most capable
young students to scientific research. Research curricula generally
do not build expertise to learn how to make even simple research
agendas or experiments. Special courses should be established
on "How to select a new research topic", etc. High
school student research training programmes should be more widely
developed to utilise this highly influential life period to
build a long-lasting and deep commitment to scientific research.
Precollege students should be encouraged to participate in International
Science Fairs and other such programmes. This will enable them
to engage in independent research and develop necessary
communication skills. The established scientific community should
assume mentorship roles and regard pre-college students as a
growing population of curious, young scientists.
Deterioration of standards in science
constant fight for grants, and the administration of small,
fragmented grants, cause scientists to spend more time with
paperwork and less .Yith true scientific work. There is too
much competition in certain branches of science today. The
well-known saying "publish or perish" expresses
the pressure to produce a large number of partly irrelevant
publications instead of taking time to think more profoundly.
In addition, the exponential rise in the number of publications
makes it very difficult for potential readers to filter out
useful information. Evaluation based on the number of publications
has a further undesirable side-effect : it hampers the free
flow of information because of the fear of priority debates.
problem is the increasing compartmentalization of thought.
With the astonishing degree of specialization. most scientists
become experts in a very narrow field, and are often unable
to think in a broader context. Thinking about the whole can
lead to deeper insights. The aforementioned pressures, however,
make such an approach difficult. We hope that in the future
the importance of interdisciplinary research will increase
and the holistic approach to problem solving will gain ground
against purely analytical thinking.
bears a general responsibility for the well-being of humanity.
Every scientist must have a constant awareness of the possible
consequences of her/his, research. A full and open dialogue
involving various sectors of society is necessary to consider
the consequences of experiments like human cloning and genetic
engineering before their initiation. More forceful legal and
moral safeguards should be worked out to prevent unethical practice
and misuse of science for the development of mass destruction
weapons, and for experiments which disregard the dignity of
human persons or animals. A special education on ethics should
be included in all education curricula. Scientific information
has to be handed over to the public and should not be held back
for economic or political reasons. Science is embedded in society
so that scientific ethics is inseparable from the ethics of
the society as a whole. We expect and encourage the global scientific
community to try to find a consensus about the self-regulation
of science. In agreement with a fortner version of the Draft
Declaration on Science of the World Conference on Science, we
strongly support the establishment of a scientific Hippocrates
Science and equal opportunities
recognize and appreciate the growing demand against the discrimination
of women. It is also necessary for different ethnic, national
and other minorities, who are victims of discrimination to have
equal chances and broadened opportunities in education and science.
We encourage education policy-makers to do their best to ensure
social justice and encourage women to join scientific research.
However, we want to protect the autonomy of internal scientific
standards and disciplinary structure of sciences against direct
political and social influence, regardless of the good and noble
intentions of policy-makers.
Science and development
can help to reduce the gap between the developed and
developing countries by ensuring that scientific information
flows freely and to all parts of the world. The Intemet
plays an important role in this, although more attention
needs to be paid to ensure that its reach is both
geographically and linguistically extended. Financial
support for science in developing countries needs
to be enhanced and more cooperation encouraged. Scientists
have an important role to play in protecting the environment
and scientific projects should both respect the requirements
as well as contribute to sustainable development.
Scientists should support research on appropriate
technologies. Traditional knowledge should not be
rejected by scientific knowledge, particularly in
the area of national resource management. Care should
be taken to protect the intellectual property rights
of people providing indigenous forms of knowledge.
we fully support the free circulation of scientists
we recognize that this makes the so-called "brain-drain"
inevitable. Brain-drain has often been referred to
a negative phenomenon in which scientific talents
would be permanently siphoned away from poorer to
richer countries. The positive effects need, however,
also to be emphasised: many persons from developing
countries educated in the West (i) return to their
native land and hence raise the level of local education
there; (ii) if they remain abroad. they often represent
the interest and needs of their native country, keep
their contacts, and thus help improve the situation
in the native country itself. Being aware of these
positive effects, we stress, that to encourage a greater
repatriation of these scientists, a special home-coming
grant system is needed.
Career prospects for young scientists
market-based economies, relatively young people can reach high
positions with high responsibility. In the hierarchic world
of science, however, a person under the age of 40 rarely gets
into a leading position. This endangers the preservation of
the freedom of research for young scientists. Young people with
fresh ideas should be included more into the decision-making
processes and new, less rigid structures should be found. Science
as a profession is often financially not attractive and there
is very rarely a satisfactory job security. Consequently, young
talented people rarely stay in science once they find a more
attractive job. This is also a crucial factor affecting the
quality of science, when science is unable to hold on to its
Fundamental, applied and military research
significant portion of science is funded today from private
sources, which are, understandably, more interested in direct
applications than long term basic research. It is very important,
however, that govermnents keep supporting longer term (i.e.:
longer than an election cycle) fimdamental research and install
a legal framework which promotes the mobilization of private
fimding for this purpose. We believe that such long-term projects
can contribute to sustainable growth.
military R&D serves certain (real, imagined or artificially
created) needs of society, we believe that there is need for
companies or govermnent institutions to help transfer these
results to the civil sphere.
Mechanism for implementing the Recommendations of the Forum
and scientists in the beginning of their careers have a fresh
and unburdened attitude towards the ethical and moral issues
facing science. Therefore we, the participants of the International
Forum of Young Scientists, established the International Forum
of Young Scientists as a continuous platform to discuss general
issues and challenges facing science. The Forum will maintain
an Intemet site, where ideas about the development and contexts
of science could be posted and discussed. The Forum will analyze
the possibility to establish a Journal for Young Scientists
initially as an Intemet site. The Forum will have regular meetings
at various places of the world. We ask the secretariat of the
Budapest International Forum of Young Scientist as be the Secretariat
of the new body which task they can pass to the organizers of
the next meeting. The Secretariat would be responsible for propagating
the relevant proposals of the Forum to relevant decision making
bodies and to the general public. We ask the World Conference
on Science recognize this Forum, and request that UNESCO and
ICSU involve the Forum in their on-going programmes.