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Hungary seeks to open up science

24 June 1999

[LONDON] The top priority facing delegates attending the World Conference of Science should be to commit themselves to ways of opening up the scientific community to society, according to Ferenc Glatz, the chairman of the Hungarian Organizing Committee.

In a letter to Maurizio Iaccarino, Unesco assistant director-general for science, outlining the conclusion of discussions among Hungarian scientists about the issues facing the conference, Glatz writes that "the major task of science at the dawn of the next century is to become more open towards society [and] towards applications."

He also suggests that delegates attending the conference should consider giving their support to a new International Science Education Fund to support training young scientists from developing countries.

Glatz says that the points outlined in his letter summarize the recommendations, remarks and proposals for modification to draft conference documents that have emerged from broad discussions within the Hungarian scientific community.

One particular concern to Hungarian scientists, he writes, is that fact that "we have witnessed a certain increase in anti-scientific and pseudo-scientific tendencies". While such a situation might be considered an understandable reaction to the accelerated pace of technological development, Glatz adds that it is "very dangerous" for a knowledge-based society, particularly as it weakens society's confidence in science and education.

"The World Conference on Science should underline the responsibility of scientists and their communities to cope with this challenge," he writes.

Another priority for the conference, he adds, is to find concrete steps ways of providing opportunities for scientists whatever their sex, religious belief and place of birth. "Equal right of access to scientific information is an important principle but it cannot be fulfilled satisfactorily if the chance is given by the physical and financial conditions do not support it."

Part of the solution, he suggests, could lie through wider use of the Internet, with services available either free of charge or at very low rates; in contrast, "the practice of several scientific journals connecting the publication of scientific articles to financial contribution is another burden [on] the free dissemination of scientific results."

Glatz also recommends the creation of an International Science Education Fund to provide special assistance for training the young generation for science in developing countries. "Fellowship programmes, co-financing the setting up of training centres can be examples of the functions of this fund," he writes.

His letter to Iaccarino, which is expected to reflect some of the ideas that Hungary - the host nation for the meeting, which has providing half of the operating costs - presents to the meeting when it opens on Saturday, also argues for better co-ordination and harmonisation between technical agencies of the United Nations, as well as other non-governmental science and technology international organisations. He suggests that Unesco "can and should play an initiative role in this process."

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