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World Conference on Science - and its role in society

The World Conference on Science, the first global conference on science and society for almost 20 years, will take place in Budapest in June, organized jointly by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Council for Science.

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26 June 1999 - 26 June 1999
Hungary

The World Conference on Science, the first global conference on science and society for almost 20 years, will take place in Budapest in June, organized jointly by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Council for Science.

The conference will be held from 26 June 1999 until 1 July 1999. It will analyse where the natural sciences stand today and where they are heading, what their social impact has been and what society expects from them. Finally, it will establish what efforts should be invested to make science advance in response to these expectations and to the challenges posed by human and social development.

The conference will address and involve national governments and institutions, educational and research establishments, members of the scientific community, the industrial sector, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as the media and the general public. All stakeholders with a vested interest in science and its role in societal development are welcome as active participants in the conference process, although participation in the conference itself will be by invitation only. A special role is to be played by the financial institutions and specialized agencies of the United Nations system, and those governmental and non-governmental bodies directly concerned with the scientific enterprise.

The conference will be an event at which policy-makers, scientists and representatives of society in general can together discuss the above issues and arrive at a means of increasing the commitment to, and from, science.

The background thinking to the conference starts with the belief that science is a powerful means of understanding the world in which we live, and is also capable of yielding enormous returns that directly enhance socio-economic development and the quality of our lives. Scientific advances over the last fifty years have led to revolutionary changes in health, nutrition and communication; moreover, the role of science promises to be yet greater in the future because of ever-more-rapid scientific progress.

Meanwhile, humanity is being confronted by problems on a global scale, many - such as environmental degradation, pollution and climatic change - provoked by the mismanagement of natural resources or unsustainable production and consumption patterns. Even if the technology implicated in these problems can be said to have stemmed from science, we cannot hope to resolve them without the correct and timely use of science in the future.

And yet, in spite of the opportunities it offers us all, science itself is facing difficulties of confidence and investment, as well as those of an ethical nature. These can only be solved if the scientific community, governments, business and the general public are able to reach, through debate, a common ground on science with respect to the service it is to provide to society, and a new commitment to science in the years to come.

A set of web pages has been set up at the following address:

URL: http://helix.nature.com/wcs/news.html

The pages are intended to act as a source of news about preparatory events leading up to the conference and issues related to its agenda, as a forum for comment and criticism from individuals in both industrialized and developing nations about such issues, and as an access point for information about related meetings (including the text of statements to be presented at Budapest).
For further information, please contact:

Secretariat, World Conference on Science
UNESCO
7, place de Fontenoy
75352 PARIS, France
Fax: +331-45685823
E-mail: confsci@unesco.org
URL: http://www.unesco.org/general/eng/programmes/science/wcs/eng/infoen.htm