Tue, May 09, 2017
Since 2005, science academies from the world’s leading economies have taken advantage of the opportunity provided by high-level political meetings to provide statements on topical scientific issues.
In 2017, Italy holds the presidency of the G7 Summit, which will be held in the picturesque town of Taormina on Sicily on 26-27 May. In anticipation of this, academies from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed to develop three statements to present to the leaders of the G7 countries.
Working groups were established, coordinated by members of the Italian Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and initial drafts polished and finalized during working group meetings of the academies held in Rome on 23-24 March. These were subsequently endorsed by the presidents of the seven participating science academies.
The three statements are:
Cultural heritage: Building resistance to natural disasters
The challenge of neurodegenerative diseases in an ageing population
New economic growth: The role of science, technology, innovation and infrastructure.
The statements were presented at the ‘G7 Science Conference’ held at the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome on 3 May.
At that event, Giovanni Seminara, coordinator of the first statement, noted that: “There is a need for such a statement on cultural heritage because, in spite of numerous declarations, national governments have been slow to take action.”
Among the recommendations of this statement are that cultural heritage, because of its irreplaceable nature, deserves a special status when planning for natural disasters, and dedicated funding streams for its protection and, in the vent of a disaster, its restoration. The statement itself is largely derived from the Charter of Rome that was signed by the Lincei president Alberto Quadrio Curzio and IAP for Science co-chair Volker ter Meulen last October.
Concerning the second statement, Maurizio Brunori noted that not only is the global human population growing, but that life expectancy was increasing to above 80 years I many countries (it is already 84 in Japan). “This will bring with it a parallel increase in age-related neurodegenerative diseases,” he said, “in what many have called a ‘neurodegenerative tsunami’, which will bring with it devastating impacts on individuals, families and society.”
The statement highlights some recent advances that reveal that behind many such diseases – including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – are mis-folding proteins. By researching deeper into such commonalities, explained Brunori, we may start to tackle such diseases as we have done successfully when we focused efforts on cancer and HIV/AIDS research in the past.
Introducing the third statement, Lincei president Alberto Quadrio Curzio noted that the pace of development in science and technology was forever increasing. However, societies need to be careful that investments in research and education must be made wisely so that we tackle the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and promote inclusive development.
The G7 Science Conference was graced by the presence of Dario Franceschini, Minister of Cultural Heritage, and Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister of Economy and Finance of the Government of Italy, who received the statements from Lincei president Quadrio Curzio and have been tasked with transmitting them to the political summit in Taormina.
Accepting the statements, Minister Padoan highlighted that: “Policymakers need scientific input to improve the quality of public debate,” and noted that they “cannot make decisions based on uniformed opinions or denial.”
Following the presentation of the statements, representatives of the G7 academies presented the work of their respective organizations. International scientific organizations were also represented, with IAP for Science co-chair Krishan Lal presenting an overview of IAP and its activities, while all four IAP regional networks were also presented (see Update on IAP and its networks). TWAS and ALLEA also had the opportunity to present their activities.
Immediately after the conference, participants transferred to the Quirinale, home of the President of the Republic of Italy, Sergio Mattarella. In an audience with President Mattarella, Quadrio Curzio explained how the statements had been developed and that he hoped they would help guide deliberations at the G7 Summit in May.
For his part, President Mattarella confirmed the importance of supporting science and technology for Italy’s national development, as well as the importance of such credible input – as provided by the academies via their statements – into national and international decision-making.