Pacific Science Association
Welcome Address from PSA President Congbin Fu to the 22nd Pacific Science Congress

14 June 2011
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Selamat datang and welcome participants to the opening of the 22nd Pacific Science Congress.

It is an honor and a great pleasure to open this conference. I am sure that we could not have a more impressive venue for this meeting than the dynamic and vibrant city of Kuala Lumpur.

I would like to thank the Government of Malaysia for sponsoring this Congress. Thank you to: the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Malaysian Academy of Sciences, the International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation, and the ICSU Regional Office for Asia Pacific for your outstanding generosity and hospitality.  

Thank you also to our co-sponsors: the University of Malaya, University Science Malaysia, University Kebangsaan Malaysia, and University Putra Malaysia.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Pacific Science Association was founded 91 years ago to promote the study of natural, social and cultural phenomena in Asian and Pacific nations and the region. PSA has held our multi-symposia Congress in a different location every 4 years since 1920. This is the 22nd Pacific Science Congress.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to my esteemed colleagues in the audience the theme of the 22nd Congress: “Asia Pacific Science in the 21st Century: Meeting the Challenges of Global Change”. Global environmental change and globalization are two of the most significant forces that are reshaping our environment, our economies, our societies, and our planet. And just as importantly, these two forces are anything but separate, for they interact and reinforce one another in profound ways. 

Indeed, so linked are these two forces that many scientists are beginning to speak of the beginning of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, to reflect the ways in which humans have begun to change the fundamental geological parameters of the Earth.

The Subthemes of this Congress are: A Changing Climate; Biodiversity and Ecosystems; Oceans; Earth Systems & Risk Management; Globalization; Resource Constraints & Sustainability; Health Challenges; and Science for Policy and the Future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to update you on the latest development of global change research in the world scientific community.

The study of Earth systems – the social and biophysical/biochemical components, processes, and interactions that determine the state and dynamics of the planet, including its biota and human inhabitants – has reached a point of major transition. For the past two decades, our priority has been to understand the functioning of the Earth’s system and in particular, the impact of human actions on that system.

But we will need far more information and understanding to truly solve the problem that global environmental change poses for our societies. We must deepen our knowledge of how human actions are affecting the planet, while at the same time we broaden the research frontier itself to focus also on understanding the consequences of global environmental change for people, and societal responses to environmental change. New, strategic, inter-disciplinary, long-term research is needed to improve our knowledge of the social-environmental risks facing humanity and to provide science-based support for actions needed to address the growing challenge of global change.

The International Council for Science (or ICSU) is now gearing up to launch a new international programme called “Global Sustainability Research”, which includes the following call to action:

"Over the next decade the global scientific community must take on the challenge of delivering to society the knowledge and information necessary to assess the risks humanity is facing from global change and to understand how society can effectively mitigate dangerous changes and cope with the change that we cannot manage."

Global sustainability research builds upon and integrates expertise within the sciences (social, natural, health, and engineering) as well as the humanities, and applies it to pressing coupled social-environmental research questions of human interactions with the Earth system.

Just as we are at a point of transition in the focus and scale of global social-environmental research, we are also at points of transition in the disciplines that must be involved and the processes by which that research is undertaken. There is a need for transition from:

Research dominated by the natural sciences to research involving the full range of sciences and the humanities.

Social sciences have long been a component of Earth system research, but tackling the grand challenges described here requires stronger involvement and greater integration of the social sciences, health sciences, engineering, and humanities, along with the natural sciences. It is increasingly clear that pathways to address rapid global change can only be found through inquiries that integrate the full range of sciences and humanities in ways that may lead to significant transformations in these disciplines as they are currently understood or practiced. It also requires the inclusion of local, traditional, and indigenous knowledge.

There is also a need for transition from disciplinary research to multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and trans-disciplinary research.

The solutions to grand challenges must be rooted in disciplinary research, but disciplinary research alone will be insufficient. Many of the priority research questions can only be solved through effective inter-disciplinary research. Moreover, it is clear that both research progress and the effective use of scientific results by society and decision-makers can often be enhanced through trans-disciplinary research – that is, through greater involvement of external stakeholders in the research process. Research will often be most useful, and the results most readily accepted by users, if priorities are shaped with the active involvement of potential end-users of research results. Success is also more assured if the research is carried out in the context of a bi-directional flow of information between scientists and users. An effective response to global environmental change will be facilitated by the co-creation of new knowledge with a broad range of stakeholders through participatory practices.

This is our common challenge. It transcends nation, religion, ideology, and profession.

So welcome to all participants as we embark on this 22nd Pacific Science Congress. When you are participating in the sessions here, I urge you all to consider what kinds of roles you can play as scientists in facilitating broader and enhanced understanding of the critical issues now facing the planet and human society. We have little time to waste.

I wish you all a great and successful Congress!

Thank you and terima kasih.

Prof. Congbin Fu
PSA President (2007 – 2011)