G8 cancels science parley

Science ministers will no longer meet before main summit.

The Italian government has caught scientists off guard by cancelling the G8 science and technology meeting that was to have begun on 25 June.

The meeting would have brought together science ministers of the G8 nations to discuss issues such as how to monitor climate change and maintain environment-friendly energy supplies.

It was one of ten ministerial meetings to prepare for the main G8 summit, in L'Aquila, Italy, in July. The summit is now left without a formal mechanism for introducing science input.

"We were surprised and disappointed by the cancellation," says James Wilsdon, director of science policy for Britain's Royal Society. The society is one of 13 national academies — one from each of the G8 countries, plus one each from South Africa, India, Mexico, China and Brazil — that had prepared a joint statement on climate and energy policy to funnel through the meeting.

The Italian government gave no clear reason for the cancellation, the first time a planned ministerial meeting has been cancelled in advance of a G8 summit. Italian newspapers have reported that government officials are referring variously to concerns about security and failure to complete translation of relevant preparatory documents.

Giuseppe Fioroni, science spokesman for Italy's opposition Democratic Party, says that the cancellation — which he puts down to infighting between ministries in the Italian government over the core themes of the research G8 meeting — is "humiliating for Italy as the host country".

The Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research did not respond to interview requests.

An official at the German research ministry said they had been told that the meeting would be reconvened in some form this autumn. "It is always good when G8 ministers meet," he said. "It does not have to be before a summit."

But Fioroni says a research meeting has meaning only if it takes place before the main summit.

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Abbott, A. G8 cancels science parley. Nature 459, 1041 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/4591041a

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