“We need to keep our minds open, or at least ajar to a future which might seem like science fiction today”, said Lord Martin Rees in a wide-ranging speech to the 2013 Global Scholars Symposium (GSS) on Saturday 20 April in Cambridge.
In a panel discussion focused on the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, of which Lord Rees is a member, the Oxford Martin School sought to engage with scholars from over 40 countries on the challenge of bridging knowledge to action on today’s biggest issues.
Joining Lord Rees on the panel were Dr John Frater, Principal Investigator at the Oxford Martin School Institute for Emerging Infections and Natalie Day, Oxford Martin School’s Head of Policy. Travers McLeod, Policy Adviser at the Oxford Martin School, chaired the session.
The GSS, held over three days from 19-21 April at the University of Cambridge, is an annual symposium of postgraduate scholars drawn from the Clarendon, Chevening, Churchill, Commonwealth, Fulbright, Gates, Marshall, Rhodes and Weidenfeld scholarships. Much like the Oxford Martin School, GSS delegates discuss the world’s biggest challenges and attempt to chart possible solutions, with an emphasis on cross-disciplinary approaches.
This year’s GSS hosted some 200 delegates, who were selected from the various scholarship programmes. GSS 2013 was arranged around the theme: “The Next 30 Years: Bridging Ideas to Action”, which closely aligns with the objectives of the Oxford Martin School and Commission.
In remarks covering space, robots, climate and good policy, Lord Rees considered longer-term challenges and opportunities in scientific research, the role of science in government, and how policymakers approach questions of risk and scientific uncertainty. Dr Frater spoke about future challenges in countering infectious diseases, one of the health-related challenges the Commission is considering. Building on his experience in HIV/AIDS research, Dr Frater also considered how the international community is measuring up in its preparedness to respond to pandemics.
Other GSS speakers this year included His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who addressed the Symposium before the Oxford Martin School panel, and Justice Goodwin Liu.
The Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations was launched last September and aims to address the growing short term preoccupations of modern politics and identify ways to overcome today’s impasse in key economic, climate, trade, health, security, and other negotiations. Chaired by Mr Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, the Commission brings together twenty leaders from government, business and society to examine the current gridlock in international and national attempts to deal with key global problems.
Building on an international programme of workshops and events across the year, the Commission aims to report later this year. The Commission will be very interested to learn of the outcomes of GSS 2013 as it works to bridge the gap between knowledge and action.