KAUST hosts 15th General Conference of The World Academy of Sciences

Left to right: TWAS Council members Moctar Tour, and Sabah AlMomin, TWAS President Mohamed H.A. Hassan, KAUST President Tony Chan, KAUST Distinguished Professor Takashi Gojobori and TWAS Council member Manuel Limonta at the 15th General Conference

The World Academy of Sciences (UNESCO-TWAS) convened its 15th General Conference online from November 1–4, 2021. This year's conference was organized by KAUST in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB). Both KAUST and IsDB are key TWAS partners based in Saudi Arabia.

TWAS is a showcase of scientific excellence in the developing and developed regions of the world and centers on the theme of "the importance of scientific research to human well-being." The event is expected to draw an international audience of researchers and policy experts from both regions.

KAUST played a critical role in coordinating the conference program in close connection with the TWAS team in Trieste, Italy. The university was the virtual host, providing the infrastructure and support for attendees around the world. Participants had the opportunity to engage with KAUST faculty experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.

KAUST President Tony Chan speaks at the 15th General Conference of The World Academy of Sciences. Photo: KAUST

The opening ceremony included remarks by prominent figures, including Tony Chan, KAUST president; Munir M. Eldesouki, assistant minister of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Saudi Arabia, and acting president of the King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology; Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general; Anja Karliczek, federal minister of the Ministry of Education and Research, Germany; Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser, IsDB president; Marina Sereni, vice minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy; Kerstin Jonsson Cissé, head of Unit for Research Cooperation of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; and Ylann Schemm, director of the Elsevier Foundation and chair of the Research4Life Executive Council of the Netherlands.

The event began on November 1 with a two-hour General Meeting of TWAS Fellows and Young Affiliates to discuss academy matters, followed by the General Conference.

The ministerial session (Tuesday, November 2) tackled the theme "Financing frontier science, technology and innovation for the SDGs" and featured remarks from prominent figures in science policy, government and international policymaking, including Assistant Director-General for Natural Science, Shamila Nair-Bedoulee, and other high-ranking officials representing the various ministries of nations.

Speaking at 15th General Conference of The World Academy of Sciences was Takashi Gojobori, Distinguished Professor of Bioscience and acting eirector of the Computational Bioscience Research Center at KAUST. Photo: KAUST

The ministerial session was followed by symposiums, including "Digital Inclusion: Challenges and opportunities for connecting the unconnected in the post-COVID era," on Thursday, November 4, chaired by KAUST Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Dr. Mohamed-Slim Alouini, and featuring four well-known speakers: Fadel Digham, National Telecom Regulatory Authority, Egypt; Güneş Karabulut Kurt, Department of Electrical Engineering, Polytechnique Montréal, Canada; Sylvia Poll Ahrens, Digital Networks and Society Department, International Telecommunication Union, Switzerland; and Vinton G. CERF, Google, USA.

KAUST President Tony Chan spoke in his closing address about the quality of the conference participation. "What made this conference truly exceptional are our speakers, experts, and, most importantly, your participation," he said. "But beyond the words spoken, my fervent hope is that the calls-to-action will be met with action in your respective corners of the world."

TWAS President professor Hassan thanked KAUST for its hosting efforts. "My special thanks go to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, whose generosity, continued commitment to science and friendship to TWAS allowed us to organize this first-ever virtual General Conference."

TWAS Vice President for Africa Moctar Tour speaks at the 15th General Conference. Photo: KAUST