A prehistoric village in the lands that are now Germany was in decline. Before disappearing, some members decided to bury valuable objects. Among them, a disk of bronze and gold that represented the celestial vault. Almost 4000 years later, some people accidentally discovered this precious object. It is one of the most important archaeo-astronomical discoveries of the 20th century. It is the Nebra sky disk.
Until now, it is the oldest representation of the sky, even older than the Egyptian inscriptions. It is exhibited in the Museum of Prehistory in the German city of Halle (Saale). When I visited this city, the first thing I did was go to see the Nebra disk. It was worth it!
This small and vibrant city is home to other treasures of scientific interest. For example, the oldest scientific society in the world, the National Academy of Sciences “Leopoldina”, founded in 1652.
It was precisely in this venue where the Annual General Meeting of the Global Young Academy (GYA) was held, which I attended. I attended because they accepted me as a Full Member for the next 5 years. An honour and recognition that I still do not believe!
The Global Young Academy
We are 200 young scientists and academics from all disciplines, from all over the world, with a strong social commitment. Our voices will be heard at meetings of international organizations at the highest level. We will participate in international research projects. We will propose and lead new projects. It is a society that empowers us to promote profound changes from science to society.
There are many working groups which address different aspects. One more interesting than the other. I, for example, signed up to work in three groups:
- Trust in scientists. One of the central problems of the erosion of people’s confidence in scientists is that the general public often knows very little about why they should trust us. This working group is based on the belief that by explaining better how science actually works, this trust can be rescued and/or strengthened.
- Academics at risk. The survival of academic researchers in conflict zones, and that of their families, often forces them to leave their countries of origin, which stops their research careers. This demoralizing experience represents a serious threat to scientific discovery and undermines a country’s capacity for reconstruction. This group works to allow the reintegration of exceptional researchers at risk and refugees, through a mentoring program.
- Scientific advice. At this time in history, scientific advice is essential. The current social movement towards post-science and post-truth decision-making is very dangerous and can have detrimental consequences for our collective future. It is important that we, early and middle-career scientists, work closely with decision makers to emphasize the importance of consulting with specialists to help make decisions.
And there are 24 other working groups! Here nobody rests!
The GYA Annual General Meeting 2019
The central conference was titled “Re-Enlightenment? Truth, reason and science in a global world ». With the emergence of post-truth concerns, the Enlightenment is again a hotly debated topic. As a global organization that aims to lead international dialogues, we debate and reflect on the role and limits of science in the modern globalized society. A series of talks and discussion panels that were intellectual balms.
I also participated in a two-day workshop on scientific leadership. This experience helped us to be aware of our strengths as agents of budding social change. It also gave us tools to communicate better, a key factor in these initiatives. What I enjoyed most was the collective leadership approach, a vital perspective to meet the objectives of the working groups and this academy in general.
During that week, I was a “protagonist” during two opportunities. First, when I officially received my membership. When taking the diploma, I had to tell my story in six words (SIX!). This was tremendous. That great and very short speech we prepared carefully during the leadership workshop. My story, told with certain histrionics, I summarized it in: “Where’s my place? I found it! “As you can see in the following video:
The other time to go on stage was to tell what I do. I entitled my talk «Ensuring the safe use of biotechnology products in developing countries». In 4 minutes I talked about how we build bridges between agricultural biotechnology and those responsible for formulating policies. We do this through a comprehensive approach that includes the provision of technical assistance, training and advisory services.
But do you know the beauty of all this? Diversity! Here the natural sciences, exact and social, are all one. We all go hand in hand raising our voice, supporting each other. Just an example: during one of the dinners, I was in the middle of a philosopher and a theologian. When on Earth! We do this voluntarily, we are moved by the mere satisfaction of doing the right things, of being on the right side of the story, of wanting to improve the world. These values seem to be the strongest attraction force on our planet.
Just as the Nebra disk consisted of a celestial guide for prehistoric inhabitants, the Global Young Academy is our modern compass to change the rules of the game and make this planet a better place for all.
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