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Ambassador for the Year of Science

Science Network

15/06/2012

German-South African exchange between young scientists

Global Young Academy
Source: Global Young Academy

German-South African exchange between young scientists embedded in Global Young Academy’s International Conference and General Assembly Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa – With a program headlined by the South African Minister for Science and Technology, the Editor-in-Chief of Science magazine and other luminaries, the Global Young Academy (GYA) completed a very successful International Conference and General Assembly meeting. Around 80 young scientists from 40 countries, distinguished senior scientists, and science administrators from around the world attended the meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 20-23 May 2012.

They included 7 young scientists from Germany (members of the GYA, the German Young Academy and the Saxonian Academy) along with 18 young scientists from South Africa, among them the founders and founding members of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), who convened an inaugural meeting to participate in the GYA assembly.

The conference allowed the recently founded SAYAS to connect to international colleagues and initiate networks with members of other academies including from Germany and other African countries. Members of the German Young Academy had extensive talks with SAYAS representatives about the aims, roles and activities of young academies and were amazed about the extent of admiration for the pioneering role of the Junge Akademie. Now SAYAS supported by GYA will take the lead for following meetings to further push the international movement for young academies in the South African region.

With the theme of “Sustainability: Lessons on the road between Rio and Rio+20,” the conference focused on concrete actions young scientists can take to advance a sustainable future.  Minister Pandor reminded delegates that, “Rio+20 is an historic opportunity to define pathways to a sustainable future – a future with more jobs, more clean energy, greater security and a decent standard of living for all.” Young scientists have a particular responsibility towards this, and much of this lies in the arena of engaging with the wider society and policy makers to promote an understanding of what is needed to achieve the goals of sustainability.

As an outcome of the conference the young scientists issued “The GYA Sandton Declaration on Sustainability” outlining more effective strategies for young scientists to contribute to challenges in sustainability. GYA members and their guests from other academies also exchanged their latest scientific results, including new discoveries and insights in quantum materials, open source information, green materials, and genetic analysis.  Such science sessions drove the formation of new, interdisciplinary collaborations.

Prof. Helmut Schwarz (President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and GYA Board Member) strongly promoted a focus on excellence and interconnectedness in scientific community to build the capacity needed to confront the complex global challenges. Representing the funders, Prof Robin Crewe (ASSAf and UP), Mboneni Muofhe (DST), Andreas Künne and Maja Clausen (German Embassy in South Africa), Prof Hennie Strydom (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation) and Arne Leeflang (DAAD) pointed out numerous opportunities for scientific exchange and funding relevant to young researchers from South Africa and Germany.

In side events as part of the conference, the participants heard inspiring talks from South African researchers, among them Prof Lee Berger who discovered remarkably well preserved, two-million-year-old fossils of an adult female and young male known as Australopithecus sediba. An interactive drumming session organized at the University of Pretoria helped speed up team building among the participants. Some of the German participants extended their stay in order to discuss their research with colleagues at South African research institutes such as the Centre of Excellence for Nutrition at the North West University and water experts at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Others visited schools with an intention to motivate scientific careers.

Learn more at: www.globalyoungacademy.net

See Photos of the GYA General Assembly meeting at our Foto Galery