Chapter 31: Scientific and technological community
31.1. The present chapter focuses on how to enable the scientific and technological community, which includes, among others, engineers, architects, industrial designers, urban planners and other professionals and policy makers, to make a more open and effective contribution to the decision-making processes concerning environment and development. It is important that the role of science and technology in human affairs be more widely known and better understood, both by decision makers who help determine public policy and by the general public. The cooperative relationship existing between the scientific and technological community and the general public should be extended and deepened into a full partnership. Improved communication and cooperation between the scientific and technological community and decision makers will facilitate greater use of scientific and technical information and knowledge in policies and programme implementation.
Decision makers should create more favourable conditions for improving training and independent research in sustainable development. Existing multidisciplinary approaches will have to be strengthened and more interdisciplinary studies developed between the scientific and technological community and policy makers and with the general public to provide leadership and practical know-how to the concept of sustainable development. The public should be assisted in communicating their sentiments to the scientific and technological community concerning how science and technology might be better managed to affect their lives in a beneficial way. By the same token, the independence of the scientific and technological community to investigate and publish without restriction and to exchange their findings freely must be assured. The adoption and implementation of ethical principles and codes of practice for the scientific and technological community that are internationally accepted could enhance professionalism and may improve and hasten recognition of the value of its contributions to environment and development, recognizing the continuing evolution and uncertainty of scientific knowledge.
A. Improving communication and cooperation among the scientific and technological community, decision makers and the public
Basis for action
31.2. The scientific and technological community and policy makers should increase their interaction in order to implement strategies for sustainable development on the basis of the best available knowledge.
This implies that decision makers should provide the necessary framework for rigorous research and for full and open communication of the findings of the scientific and technological community, and develop with it ways in which research results and the concerns stemming from the findings can be communicated to decision-making bodies so as to better link scientific and technical knowledge with strategic policy and programme formulation. At the same time, this dialogue would assist the scientific and technological community in developing priorities for research and proposing actions for constructive solutions.
31.3. The following objectives are proposed:
(a) To extend and open up the decision-making process and broaden the range of developmental and environmental issues where cooperation at all levels between the scientific and technological community and decision makers can take place;
(b) To improve the exchange of knowledge and concerns between the scientific and technological community and the general public in order to enable policies and programmes to be better formulated, understood and supported.
31.4. Governments should undertake the following activities:
(a) Review how national scientific and technological activities could be more responsive to sustainable development needs as part of an overall effort to strengthen national research and development systems, including through strengthening and widening the membership of national scientific and technological advisory councils, organizations and committees to ensure that:
(i) The full range of national needs for scientific and technological programmes are communicated to Governments and the public;
(ii) The various strands of public opinion are represented;
(b) Promote regional cooperative mechanisms to address regional needs for sustainable development. Such regional cooperative mechanisms could be facilitated through public/private partnerships and provide support to Governments, industry, non-governmental educational institutions and other domestic and international organizations, and by strengthening global professional networks;
(c) Improve and expand scientific and technical inputs through appropriate mechanisms to intergovernmental consultative, cooperative and negotiating processes towards international and regional agreements;
(d) Strengthen science and technology advice to the highest levels of the United Nations, and other international institutions, in order to ensure the inclusion of science and technology know-how in sustainable development policies and strategies;
(e) Improve and strengthen programmes for disseminating research results of universities and research institutions. This requires recognition of and greater support to the scientists, technologists and teachers who are engaged in communicating and interpreting scientific and technological information to policy makers, professionals in other fields and the general public. Such support should focus on the transfer of skills and the transfer and adaptation of planning techniques. This requires full and open sharing of data and information among scientists and decision makers. The publication of national scientific research reports and technical reports that are understandable and relevant to local sustainable development needs would also improve the interface between science and decision-making, as well as the implementation of scientific results;
(f) Improve links between the official and independent research sectors and industry so that research may become an important element of industrial strategy;
(g) Promote and strengthen the role of women as full partners in the science and technology disciplines;
(h) Develop and implement information technologies to enhance the dissemination of information for sustainable development.
Means of implementation
(a) Financing and cost evaluation
31.5. The Conference secretariat has estimated the average total annual cost (1993-2000) of implementing the activities of this programme to be about $15 million from the international community on grant or concessional terms. These are indicative and order-of-magnitude estimates only and have not been reviewed by Governments. Actual costs and financial terms, including any that are non-concessional, will depend upon, inter alia, the specific strategies and programmes Governments decide upon for implementation.
31.6. Intergovernmental panels on development and environmental issues should be organized, with emphasis on their scientific and technical aspects, and studies of responsiveness and adaptability included in subsequent programmes of action.
Basis for action
31.7. Scientists and technologists have a special set of responsibilities which belong to them both as inheritors of a tradition and as professionals and members of disciplines devoted to the search for knowledge and to the need to protect the biosphere in the context of sustainable development.
31.8. Increased ethical awareness in environmental and developmental decision-making should help to place appropriate priorities for the maintenance and enhancement of life-support systems for their own sake, and in so doing ensure that the functioning of viable natural processes is properly valued by present and future societies. Therefore, a strengthening of the codes of practice and guidelines for the scientific and technological community would increase environmental awareness and contribute to sustainable development. It would build up the level of esteem and regard for the scientific and technological community and facilitate the "accountability" of science and technology.
31.9. The objective should be to develop, improve and promote international acceptance of codes of practice and guidelines relating to science and technology in which the integrity of life-support systems is comprehensively accounted for and where the important role of science and technology in reconciling the needs of environment and development is accepted. To be effective in the decision-making process, such principles, codes of practice and guidelines must not only be agreed upon by the scientific and technological community, but also recognized by the society as a whole.
31.10. The following activities could be undertaken:
(a) Strengthening national and international cooperation, including the non-governmental sector, to develop codes of practice and guidelines regarding environmentally sound and sustainable development, taking into account the Rio Declaration and existing codes of practice and guidelines;
(b) Strengthening and establishing national advisory groups on environmental and developmental ethics, in order to develop a common value framework between the scientific and technological community and society as a whole, and promote continuous dialogue;
(c) Extending education and training in developmental and environmental ethical issues to integrate such objectives into education curricula and research priorities;
(d) Reviewing and amending relevant national and international environment and development legal instruments to ensure appropriate codes of practice and guidelines are incorporated into such regulatory machinery.
Means of implementation
(a) Financing and cost evaluation
31.11. The Conference secretariat has estimated the average total annual cost (1993-2000) of implementing the activities of this programme to be about $5 million from the international community on grant or concessional terms. These are indicative and order-of-magnitude estimates only and have not been reviewed by Governments. Actual costs and financial terms, including any that are non-concessional, will depend upon, inter alia, the specific strategies and programmes Governments decide upon for implementation.
31.12. Codes of practice and guidelines, including on appropriate principles, should be developed for and by the scientific and technological community in the pursuit of its research activities and implementation of programmes aimed at sustainable development.
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