RIYADH: The World Academy of Sciences (UNESCO-TWAS) convened its 15th General Conference online from Nov. 1-4, 2021. This year’s conference was organized by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB). Both KAUST and IsDB are key TWAS partners based in Saudi Arabia.
TWAS is a showcase of scientific excellence in the developing and developed regions of the world and centers on the theme of “the importance of scientific research to human well-being.” The event drew an international audience of researchers and policy experts from both regions.
KAUST played a critical role in coordinating the conference program with the TWAS team in Trieste, Italy. The university was the virtual host, providing the infrastructure and support for attendees around the world. Participants had the opportunity to engage with KAUST faculty experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.
KAUST President Tony Chan spoke in his closing address of the quality of the conference participation. “What has made this conference truly exceptional are our speakers, experts and, most importantly, your participation,” he said. “But beyond the words spoken, my fervent hope is that the calls to action will be met with action in your respective corners of the world.”
TWAS President Professor Hassan thanked KAUST for hosting the event. “My special thanks go to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology… whose generosity, continued commitment to science and friendship to TWAS allowed us to organize this first-ever virtual General Conference.”
The opening ceremony included remarks by prominent figures, including Munir M. Eldesouki, assistant minister of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Saudi Arabia, and acting president of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology; Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general; Anja Karliczek, federal minister of the Ministry of Education and Research, Germany; Muhammad Sulaiman Al-Jasser, IsDB president; Marina Sereni, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy; Kerstin Jonsson Cissé, head of Unit for Research Cooperation of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; and Ylann Schemm, director of the Elsevier Foundation and chair of the Research4Life Executive Council of the Netherlands.
The event began on Nov. 1 with a two-hour General Meeting of TWAS Fellows and Young Affiliates to discuss academy matters, followed by the General Conference.
The ministerial session (Tuesday, Nov. 2) tackled the theme “Financing frontier science, technology and innovation for the SDGs” and featured remarks from prominent figures in science policy, government and international policymaking, including UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Science Shamila Nair-Bedoulee, and other high-ranking officials representing the various ministries of nations.
The ministerial session was followed by symposiums, including “Digital Inclusion: Challenges and opportunities for connecting the unconnected in the post-COVID era,” on Thursday, Nov.4, chaired by KAUST Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Dr. Mohamed-Slim Alouini, and featuring four well-known speakers: Fadel Digham, National Telecom Regulatory Authority, Egypt; Güneş Karabulut Kurt, Department of Electrical Engineering, Polytechnique Montréal, Canada; Sylvia Poll Ahrens, Digital Networks and Society Department, International Telecommunication Union, Switzerland; and Vinton G. Cerf, Google, USA.