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Dr. Chan's welcome address to S20 participants

"We must dedicate human creativity, not only to bring about beneficial outcomes...but also to minimize the threats posed to society."

Hello, my name is Tony Chan. I am the President of KAUST.

It's my pleasure to welcome you all once again, and I know that much progress in your discussions has taken place since our information session last April.

Let me extend a special greeting to the representatives of the G20 National Science Academies who are virtually assembled with us today.

I would like to congratulate Dr. Anas and the rest of the S20 leadership, the Steering Committee, our secretariat, and the distinguished leaders and members of the S20 task forces for bringing us to this point.

This international workshop marks the start of our countdown for the S20 summit that KAUST will host next month. During that Summit, the global science community will speak as one, and submit to the G20 Presidency and world leaders, not only a written communique, but more robustly, a template for a better future.

The template is our collective foresight, and it will capture a longterm view and a longterm plan that will urge world leaders to heed the voices of science in developing policies and devising courses of action.

We want to ensure that policies and actions are based on evidence, and that technological developments designed to bring about human benefits also take unintended consequences into consideration—consequences that are made apparent only when we think in terms of complex systems.

Human kind's inability to think holistically is at the root of unabated increases in greenhouse gas emissions and the climate change that results; the pervasive contamination of our lands and oceans; the depletion of global freshwater supplies; and the increasing frequency and risk of viral pandemics such as the one we are currently experiencing. Closing the loop on circular economies might well offer the most viable path forward.

Similarly, myopic and shortsighted thinking could also derail the abundant promise of new technologies. One example of holistic thinking is Industry 4.0 or the digital revolution. The emergence of artificial intelligence has largely already happened.

We must dedicate human creativity not only to bring about beneficial outcomes from this revolution, but also to minimize the threats posed to society in terms of security of human infrastructure, economic systems and personal privacy. Precision medicine and personalized healthcare are also within reach of today's generation, thanks to the enormous developments in "multiomic" science and technology.

But just like the cognate field of digital technology, science doesn't have all the answers, and governance must closely develop along with the science to avoid undesirable outcomes.

I'd like to close my remarks with three general points, using KAUST as an example.

Number one: Education is the surest means by which we can ensure that the promise of future technology is fulfilled.

It is important that we raise the next generation with the rigor of scientific disciplines, but we must also impart on them precisely the holistic thinking and complex problem solving skills that I just talked about. At KAUST, we place great emphasis on educating talent in science and technology, both for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and for the world.

I urge you not to neglect education and workforce development as you shape your recommendations to the G20 leaders.

Number two: Global collaboration and inclusivity are essential virtues.

KAUST is a good example. We are a small university with less than 200 faculty members, but we have strong collaborations with well over 400 universities, government agencies and corporate partners within the Kingdom and throughout the world. G20 governments and allies must be made to recognize the inherent value of global collaborative platforms as they implement the recommendations of the S20.

KAUST itself was built to be a modern House of Wisdom. It was intentionally designed to draw upon the power of diverse thinking and diverse perspectives. We invite the very best talents from the Kingdom, as well as from the rest of the world, to tackle the grand challenges of our time. Indeed, one can say exactly the same about the G20 science academies gathered here today.

Diversity brings about a re-creation of the very atmosphere that allowed knowledge to flourish during both the Renaissance and the Golden Age of Islam, and conversations such as we are having today and tomorrow are an embodiment of the best ideals of collective thinking.

Number three: Science and scientists must be accountable to society.

Every worthwhile human endeavor ultimately must improve human existence.

At KAUST we are small in size, but we are focused on impact. For six years running we've had the highest rate of citations per faculty. We've done this by focusing on big, meaningful questions and then publishing high-quality research in collaboration with top global institutions.

A timely example is our Rapid Research Response Team for COVID-19. From developing better tests, to identifying effective therapeutics, to providing a global data and analytic platform for the virus.

We've also focused on translating research outcomes into startups, and by training our best and brightest to be great entrepreneurs as well as great scientists. We want to both deeply understand and then develop meaningful solutions to the global challenges we all face; we want to have local and global impact in the lives of the future leaders we educate—in the nation that gave us our charter—and in the global community of which we aim to help advance.

So on behalf of KAUST, the lead organization for the S20, I thank all of you once again, and I wish you a very productive and convergent two days of discussions.

Thank you

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