Nizhny Novgorod, one of the largest nuclear industry centers in Russia, hosted the International Science for Peace and Development Dialogue Forum, sponsored by the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO. The dialogue forum took place on November 10 (World Science Day for Peace and Development) at the Mayak Academy. This event was part of Russia’s Year of Science and Technology.
Russian and international speakers addressed the forum both in person and online, discussing the importance of scientific research and discoveries in today’s world. The participants tried to define the boundaries of scientists’ responsibility for their work.
The forum was attended by 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chairman of Global Energy’s International Award Committee, climate change expert Rae Kwon Chung; mathematics professor from the University of Oxford Marcus du Sautoy; international infectious diseases expert Ravina Kullar; UK’s Astronomer Royal, Cambridge University professor Martin Rees, head of ROSATOM’s project office Ruslan Yunusov, research superviser of ROSATOM’s Breakthrough project Evgeny Adamov and many others. President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Sergeev was the forum’s special guest. Journalist, TV host and producer Sophie Shevardnadze moderated the event.
The forum had two main sections. During the first session, scientists and experts talked about the ethics dimension – does science make the world a better place or does it pose new risks to society? The conversation also focused on the extent of a scientist’s responsibility for their ideas and inventions. At the second session, the participants discussed the issue of ownership – who holds the rights to scientific discoveries? Another important subject that the forum covered was the success formula in science – is it found in competition or cooperation?
During the discussion, research supervisor of ROSATOM’s Breakthrough project Evgeny Adamov talked about the dual use of nuclear technology and assured the audience that the peaceful atom is the perfect solution to humanity’s energy problems. Adamov believes that people don’t trust nuclear technology because they simply don’t have accurate information. In his speech, he focused on the closed nuclear fuel cycle – one of the major breakthroughs in scientific research. “I believe that the closed cycle technology should be made available to all developing countries free of charge, so that people who don’t have energy, and this number is estimated at 1 or 2 billion right now, could get access to it. We can launch relief programs, like the ones we have for food deliveries, and supply these countries with energy,” Adamov proposed.
Cambridge University professor Martin Rees pointed out that people’s lives depend on energy, and our mission today is to make sure that future generations live in a better world, not one depleted of all resources. The professor also expressed his concern about the speed at which scientific discoveries are implemented – in his opinion, technological solutions sometimes become part of real life prematurely. “New experiments tale less and less time. It’s very important that we should realize that there are some scientific areas where we should perhaps go slow. And that’s true in the case of climate, it’s true in the case of health, and GM crops,” Sir Martin Rees commented.
Climate change expert Rae Kwon Chung said that progress in science both inspires and frightens people. But we can’t turn a blind eye to the fact some technological solutions create social problems in various countries. “Can our social and economic system keep up with the technology and should it be improved? It is posing a serious challenge. We have to look at the economic and social systems and how they react to scientific progress. And the international community should turn away from the confrontational relations modeled by the USA and USSR. The pandemic-induced crisis encourages us to untie and work together – especially in such important areas as manufacturing vaccines,” Mr. Chung explained.
November 10 was chosen as the date for the International Science for Peace and Development Dialogue Forum, because it is World Science Day for Peace and Development, and it reminds us about the importance of new knowledge and discoveries in today’s world, as well as the necessity to have an open discussion with society, uncovering the challenges facing science right now.
Support of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO highlights the significance of the International Dialogue Forum in Nizhny Novgorod. The mission of this respected intergovernmental organization is to foster communication between people, so they can learn more about each other and develop mutual understanding. The organizers of the forum at the Mayak Academy hope that they can contribute to the international community’s search for answers to important ethics questions and help make science more human-centered.