Tackling global problems requires international collaboration and this underscores the strategic role of the GRC Versão em português
Representatives from 81 research funding agencies from 63 countries are meeting this week in The Hague, in the Netherlands, for the Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council. The event will discuss topics that will help shape the future of research around the world
Karina Toledo, from The Hague | FAPESP Agency - "Welcome everyone to the 11th Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council [GRC], here at the Peace Palace. In times of war and conflict, what an encouraging place for us to be gathered, sharing and discussing ideas to shape and further develop global research collaboration."
With these words the president of the Governing Board of the GRC, Katja Becker, opened the annual meeting of the main public funding agencies for research in the world, which in 2023 is taking place in The Hague (Netherlands), where the United Nations Court of Justice is located. The event is being hosted by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and FAPESP. Taking part are 175 representatives from 81 research funding institutions from 63 countries.
In her introductory speech, Becker, who is also president of the German Research Foundation (DFG), said that the need for global cooperation is becoming increasingly evident, which makes the joint activities carried out within the framework of the GRC even more important. On the other hand, she said, there is a growing perception that research freedom and scientific exchange are under threat.
On behalf of the NWO, Marcel Levi welcomed the participants and said he was proud that the event organized in his country – in collaboration with Brazilian partners – had brought together a record number of organizations and countries.
"Today we're at the Peace Palace, a true icon for peace and justice. Indeed, one of the best possible ways to achieve international collaboration and cross-border understanding is research. Science and peace are intimately linked," said Levi, recalling that the construction of the Peace Palace was funded by an American philanthropist called Andrew Carnegie, who sought to bring the world's population together by bringing inspiring people together. "And that is exactly what we want for this week: to bring together colleagues to find international solutions to common problems and inspire each other."
The opening session was also attended by Marco Antonio Zago, president of FAPESP, who stressed the coincidence of the event taking place exactly 100 years since the death of Rui Barbosa (1849-1923), the Brazilian politician and diplomat who became known as the "Eagle of The Hague" for his strong performance in the Second Peace Conference, in 1907, held in an attempt to avoid a world conflict that, a few years later, would become the First World War.
"As we approach the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, we must ask ourselves how true is the perception we scientists have about the role of science in society. And perhaps even more relevant: is this role changing? Is science still progressing as strongly as it was at the end of the last century? We must recognize the complexity of today's reality, which is more than ever defined by global phenomena such as the pandemic, wars, the global energy and food crisis, large-scale migrations," Zago said, then pointing out that no country or national or regional science system is able to define its own future alone or independently. "This context highlights the relevance of the Global Research Council and all these meetings, as it represents a privileged forum for interaction, collaboration and joint initiatives."
Zago also highlighted that science is a key tool for achieving the SDGs, which include the fight against climate change, one of the main themes of the event. "To achieve this goal will require a synergistic action of governments, the engagement of society and a strong contribution from science, technology and innovation," he stressed.
One topic under discussion this year – how to improve the way researchers are evaluated and rewarded – has, in the assessment of FAPESP's president, the potential to shape the future of research.
"I see a productive path for joint collaboration in the coming years, should we succeed in solving two prominent problems in today's scientific community: the slowdown of disruptive science and the disenchantment of younger generations with scientific careers," he concluded.
The opening ceremony was followed by a lecture given by Robbert Dijkgraaf, who, besides being a physicist and string theory scholar, is a professor at the University of Amsterdam and currently the Netherlands Minister of Education, Culture and Science.
One of the central points of his speech was the exaggerated attachment of scientists to performance indicators, numbers, and other types of metrics that, according to the minister, has "spread like wildfire and is now present in many aspects of society."
"Today there are managers who focus exclusively on quantitative goals. Nurses spend more time recording their activities than caring for patients. And policymakers – I say this from experience – we sometimes lose sight of the human story behind all these numbers, data and metrics," he said. "And in academia, of course, we create numerical indices to measure the career impact of publications. Some refer to modern scholars as 'les measurables' [a pun on the word measure]. We often reduce the complexity of life to a single number. Metrics have their value, but it's important to remain critical."
In Dijkgraaf's assessment, important steps will be taken during the Annual Meeting of the GRC toward new principles for recognizing and rewarding researchers, in an effort to capture all dimensions of academic work.
"Seeing this topic on the agenda fills me with pride, as the Netherlands was one of the first to address the issue. The fact that this movement is now gaining international acceptance is clear from the distinguished company gathered here today. There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."
The agenda for the 11th meeting brings together a number of strategic themes, including overarching questions about equality, diversity and inclusion, and the responsible evaluation of scientific research, as well as questions concerning international collaboration and future activities of the GRC. "We're going to focus on innovating ways to recognize and reward scientists, as well as discussing funders' responsibilities and opportunities in addressing climate change. I firmly believe that the statements of principle on both topics, which will be presented in subsequent sessions, will inspire each of us, our organizations, and the GRC as a whole as we strive to enable scientific research to be done in the best way possible," said the president of the GRC's Governing Board.
"Science provides us with knowledge, innovative tools and creative solutions to combat climate change and the loss of biological diversity, to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, promote justice and bring about the logic of global peace. May our work together contribute to a global spirit of peaceful cooperation," he added.