UP a proud partner of Global Young Academy

Posted on June 14, 2012

The University of Pretoria (UP) is extremely proud to be associated with GYA, as Prof Bernard Slippers, Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics and a member of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, is one of the Co-Chairs.

The meeting, held from 20 to 23 May, included 80 young scientists from 40 countries, distinguished senior scientists and science administrators from around the world. With the theme of “Sustainability: Lessons on the road between Rio and Rio+20”, the conference focused on concrete actions that young scientists can take to advance a sustainable future. Additionally, the meeting included the founders and founding members of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), who convened an inaugural meeting to participate in the GYA assembly.

Five leading young researchers from the University’s Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences are also Founding Members of SAYAS. They are Prof Bernard Slippers (FABI and Department of Genetics), Prof Andrew McKechnie (Department of Zoology and Entomology and a core team member of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute) and Prof Mathieu Rouget from the Department of Plant Sciences.

The other two UP members are: Prof De Wet Swanepoel from the Department of Communication Pathology (Faculty of Humanities) and Prof Rangan Gupta from the Department of Economics (Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences).

Minister Naledi Pandor reminded delegates that, “Rio+20 is an historic opportunity to define pathways to a sustainable future – a future with more jobs, more clean energy, greater security and a decent standard of living for all.”

Young scientists have a particular responsibility towards this, and much of it lies in the arena of engaging with the wider society and policy makers to promote an understanding of what is needed to achieve the goals of sustainability. Other speakers provided examples of how these goals can be accomplished.

Professor Howard Alper (co-chair of the IAP: Global Network of Science Academies and GYA Board Member) remarked, “Challenges of clean water and electricity for all are no longer a scientific challenge, they are a leadership challenge”, and pointed out the critical role that university-industry partnerships can play in influencing leadership on these issues.

Professor Helmut Schwarz (President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and GYA Board Member) strongly promoted a focus on excellence and interconnectedness in scientific community to build the capacity needed to confront the complex global challenges. His call to “fund excellent people, and fund them in the long term” resonated with the attendees.

Professor Bruce Alberts (Editor-in-Chief of Science magazine and GYA Board Member) made a strong call to scientists to get more actively involved and to care deeply about science education. “The future of the world depends on it,” he said. Current approaches that are focused on simply transmitting lists of facts can bore children and do not promote an understanding of how science works and what its value to society is. This needs to change urgently; scientists have a responsibility to get involved in changing educational approaches and perceptions.

GYA members also exchanged their latest scientific results, including new discoveries and insights into quantum materials, open-source information, green materials and genetic analysis. Such science sessions drove the formation of new interdisciplinary collaborations.

The General Assembly meeting took place at GIBS in Illovo. The Centre’s outstanding conference facilities supported the conference’s goals. For example, a professional media studio was used to record short web videos promoting the GYA’s goals, such as the establishment of national young academies around the world.
During the last day, GYA members elected new leadership, including Prof Rees Kassen of Canada, and re-elected Prof Bernard Slippers to serve as Co-Chairs.

Learn more at: http://www.globalyoungacademy.net/

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