Q&A with Peter Singer on links between science academies and Grand Challenges


Marina Lemle
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net

Ahead of the 2013 conference of Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) we asked Peter A. Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada and director of Sandra Rotman Centre, what the conference is all about.

Here’s brief summary of what he had to say. For more reporting and analysis, please tune in again next week, when the conference starts.

What has the relationship between Grand Challenges and the IAP, and science academies, been like so far?

We surveyed science academies and many are tackling grand challenges without calling them that.

Some academies have formally used Grand Challenges such as US National Academy of Sciences Grand Challenges in Engineering.   IAP people such as the co-chairs have been closely connected to Grand Challenges efforts but there is no formal relationship between IAP and Grand Challenges.

This meeting is about the opportunity since there is much synergy between grand challenges, science academies, and IAP.

Do you think this conference can lead to strengthening this relationship?

Yes I do.  The intended outputs of the conference are to identify and discuss a listing of grand challenges through the challenge labs, show how the synergies might occur through the ‘Letter from Rio’ and possibly develop an online marketplace for grand challenges opportunities.  These outputs will in part be a focus of the meeting.

What are the key areas where science academies, especially the ones from the developing world, can help make an impact?

This will become clear through the challenge labs and subsequent discussion.  As you will see they span across sectors.

What do you hope the outcomes of the conference to be? Are there any official proposals for cooperation scheduled to be discussed?

In terms of ultimate outcomes I hope that the conference will lead to greater mutual understanding and cooperation between science academies and those who develop, support and solve global grand challenges.  For example, the talent of science academies members could be useful to solve these challenges; the identification of grand challenges can be useful to science academies as they advise their governments; and grand challenges can be useful to us all as we seek to work together to solve challenges.

This blog post is part of our coverage of 2013 Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) conference which takes place 24-26 February 2013, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To read further news and analysis please visit our website.

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