Conference Panels

Introductory Panel – What is Enlightenment?

Wednesday 1 May, 09:00 – 10:30

This panel sets the stage for the rest of the conference. Panelists present in broad terms their distinct visions of enlightenment. The main questions the panelists will answer are: “What is enlightenment? What does it mean for you? What not? What is its relevance today?”

Enlightenment can mean many things, and this discussion will give the audience the intellectual flexibility to think about enlightenment in different ways. This is important for the divergence exercises in the follow-up panels. Speakers will make their pitch, then the floor will be opened up for questions and discussion.

The four following conference panels will be interactive. Speakers – or provocateurs – will give short input talks. These talks will provoke further moderated discussion among all participants, related to the relationship between science and society, and relevant to the core values of the GYA. GYA members from all disciplines are invited to contribute their experience as scientists and researchers to fruitful discussions on their values and the values of the GYA as a science academy.

Panels I & II – Different places of truth: science between global and local / Different paths to truth? Science, art, religion

Wednesday 1 May, 10:30 – 13:00

As an organisation, the GYA advocates the universal value of science and evidence-based policy, but also advocates for diversity and inclusiveness. This represents just one tension between embracing universal values and valuing (local) difference. This tension can be found in many places, for example between globalization and cultural diversity; human rights and local traditions; globalized agriculture and biodiversity. Related to the development of the GYA as an organization, this panel will discuss questions of diversity and equity, and how these can be combined with the GYA value of scientific excellence.

Questions for panels I & II:
  • How might we find inspiration in the tensions of embracing both universal and diverse ways of doing science? What generative potential would this have for reconsidering the evaluation of scientific excellence at scientific institutions across the world?
  • What would it take for scientific knowledge to travel across and between local sites, rather than being dispersed from global centres to local peripheries?
  • What do we mean by “global” and “local” when we talk of science? How might our thinking about this inform the future of scientific endeavor? What are the possibilities and limitations for the diverse ways in which “the global” and “the local” are being imagined in science?
  • How can the GYA be involved in the re-evaluation and reconfiguration of centres of scientific knowledge production, and the way scientific intervention disperses across the world?
  • What role do aesthetics or other experiences play in happiness and well-being, and to what extent should science also address these issues, including the arts, culture, religion or sports?
  • To what extent can or should humanities participate in evidence-based practices, including policymaking?
  • How might we include general citizens more comprehensively into science and the scientific process?
  • How can we tackle very sensitive issues with respect for diverse (and often strongly held) values, lifestyles and beliefs, as well as for basic human rights?
  • Should disciplines such as theology or practical arts be part of the GYA? This raises questions about the inclusiveness of the GYA and its concept of “science”.

Panel III – The role of scientists in a Post-Enlightenment world

Thursday 2 May, 14:00 – 16:30

The role of scientists in society has maybe never seemed less clear than today. On the one hand, scientists seem powerless in a supposedly post-truth and post-fact world; on the other hand, tremendous hope is still put into them: from averting climate change to curing diseases or developing life-saving algorithms, scientists are called upon to bring solutions for policymaking and into the public debate. Looking at concrete examples of successful trust-building and tackling of pressing global challenges, we ask what lessons can be learned, and how young scientists in particular can contribute.

Questions for panel III:
  • Enlightenment is about “thinking for yourself” - how is this compatible with trusting experts? Has science become too arrogant, disregarding other forms of knowledge?
  • What can we learn from climate change & biodiversity losses for how to organize as scientists, collectively, and to address global challenges?
  • Should scientists simply do their job and let science journalists, think tanks and policy advisers do the rest?
  • If science collaborates closely with commercial enterprises, can it still serve society as a whole? But if it doesn’t, how can its results become practical?
  • If we want to be trustworthy and responsible scientists, what theoretical and practical skills do we need and how can the GYA help young scientists and researchers acquire them?
  • What can we learn from the mistakes of other collective science organizations, what from the successes?
  • How could the GYA help build (justified) trust in science? Which concrete steps should it take?
  • Should interaction with a broader public be a larger part of GYA’s activities, with the aim of helping to build (justified) trust in science? How?

Panel IV – The limits of (Re)Enlightenment?

Thursday 2 May, 14:00 – 16:30

Reason and science are not always seen as positive forces; in the past they have caused many of society’s problems. Where are the limits of reason, the extremes of reason, or when does reason collapse into unreason? What role do emotion, intuition and aesthetics play in society alongside reason? Today, the world is confronted with major environmental problems, climate change, and other effects of the Anthropocene. In this context, sources of reason, and how to transcend failures of reason will be discussed. This discussion is relevant for science advice, e.g. understanding that policymakers are reacting to societal values rather than only to scientific knowledge. For the GYA, exploring these questions can help the organization develop a clearer identity; “evidence-based” is an important, but not the only, value on which the GYA is founded.

Questions for panel IV:
  • Vaccine hesitancy has been identified as one of the top 10 threats of global health. The fight between vaccine advocates and vaccine deniers have escalated to the toughest level. What does this tell us about 'science communication'? Similarly, how can cultural and generational differences be bridged when it comes to new, evidence-based vs. traditional medical intervention?
  • Imagine you live in an Earthquake-prone zone. Geological engineers have rated your community very poorly for dwelling purposes and given the 'red alert'. However, the older generation does not want to relocate to a safer place for cultural/traditional reasons. As a young scientist, how do you balance scientific vs. non-scientific reasons for and against relocation?
  • Scientists often conclude on 'association' or 'difference' merely based on a certain P value or whether the confidence interval includes zero or not. Conflicts arise when one study says the relationship between two variables is significant and another study says it is not significant. How might we work constructively with this conflict created by statistical significance and P values?
  • How might the ongoing Brexit issue impact non-European non-UK scientists living, working or studying in the UK or the EU region? Related to this, obtaining visas to participate in international scientific exchange can place a huge burden on young scientists and researchers from certain countries. How do national borders and regulations affect the freedom of international scientific exchange?
  • In the field of decision making, how might consultation be balanced with progress? How can dissenting views find space in a way that ensures that everyone is heard, but that progress is still made?
  • How can the GYA more universally support its members from all world regions?
  • How might we balance documentation of impact with actually creating impact?
  • In selecting GYA members, how can we tackle the conflict between the aim to assess excellence and the recognition that our measures are always inherently biased?

History and future of academies and learned societies

Friday 3 May 9:00 – 12:00

Part I – Origins and history of the first national and global academies

At the 2019 Anniversary Conference of the GYA, we will reflect on the history of the GYA in the broader context of the history of learned organizations and academies worldwide, with a special focus on history of our host academy, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. This session will deal with the origins and history of the first national and global academies, considering the connection between academies and Enlightenment as well as the historical role of academies in society.

Part II – future of national and global academies

The second half of the panel will then place the recent founding of National Young Academies and the Global Young Academy in this broader perspective, connecting the young academies movement with the re-enlightenment theme of the conference. This panel discussion between representatives of senior science academies, academy networks and young academies will discuss the current and future role of academies in society. Speakers will give their view on how we can address societal challenges together and on how they see the role of their academies in the future.