20 November 2019

 

First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge our hosts:

 

His Excellency, Mr Janos Ader, President of Hungary; and Prof Laszlo Lovasz, the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and of the World Science Forum.

 

I would also like to recognize the senior representatives of the World Science Forum partners:

 

UNESCO Assistant Director General: Dr Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, a compatriot;

 

President of the International Science Council: Prof Daya Reddy, another compatriot; and

 

Dr Ann Margaret Hamburg, Chair of the Board of the Association of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

 

Esteemed and learned guests, ladies and gentlemen

 

Thank you for the opportunity to address you during this opening session.

 

At the outset, I would like to bring to you a message of congratulations from my Government, and indeed the broader African science community, to the World Science Forum on its 20th anniversary.   Over the past two decades the WSF has firmly established itself as one of the leading global platforms for science diplomacy, promoting international cooperation in science and harnessing science as an instrument for global good.  In this process, the WSF influenced the organisation of similar forums across the world, including our own Science Forum South Africa, which will be held for the fifth time in early December.

 

This year’s WSF theme of “science, ethics and responsibility” is highly appropriate, as there is a pressing global imperative to ensure science becomes more responsive to society’s needs, including through addressing ethical considerations related to the scientific enterprise.  This is especially crucial for us in Africa, where science must respond to our challenges related to poverty, systemic social injustice and inequality.  Understanding and addressing the ethical considerations related to the research response to chronic and infectious disease is for example a key priority.

 

Researchers in Africa are particularly vulnerable to some of the drivers that can undermine the integrity of research including severe funding constraints and the need to compete with those in the global North, who have access to greater resources and support systems.  I therefore hope that the deliberations at this Forum will enable us to address challenges in developing countries related to inadequate institutional support at a research management level, poor systems for data management, as well as Intellectual Property protection and technology transfer, which often result in unequal partnerships and suboptimal collaboration.  If we fail to do so, the enormous potential of science in the global South will not be unleashed, for the greater good of humanity.

 

In South Africa, our Government’s 2019 White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, commits to promoting a national responsible research and integrity agenda, to help local researchers to collaborate and compete with foreign counterparts in a world where ethical concerns (for example fair trade) and environmental concerns (such as emission standards) are increasingly influencing competitiveness.  Furthermore, insufficient attention to ethics and integrity in science leads to an erosion of public trust in the scientific enterprise, which could result in a reduction in public funding, when it was more needed than ever, hence the urgency of this agenda.

 

In anticipation of our hosting of the World Science, South Africa will in May 2021 also be hosting the seventh World Conference on Research Integrity.  Like for the WSF, this will be the first time that this important conference will be held on the African soil.  It will be an opportunity to look at the promotion of research ethics and Integrity through an African lens.  It will also provide a platform for African Scientists to network around the importance of safeguarding and ensuring the Integrity of their work, taking forward the discussions we will have this week in Budapest.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

In conclusion, please accept this appeal.  We live in uncertain times. Despite the immense and shared societal challenges faced by our planet, global solidarity and partnership in many quarters are under threat – platforms like the World Science Forum are, thus, more needed than ever.  Our collective mission here in Budapest is therefore to unit through science, and make science work for all our planet’s inhabitants, including the most vulnerable and excluded.   Our call to arms should be to be stronger together and through science.

 

I wish you all rich and productive discussions during the coming days.  I look forward to seeing all of you in Cape Town, South Africa in 2021, where building on the outcomes of Budapest 2019, we will advance the global agenda to harness science as the world’s most powerful instrument for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

I thank you.