The Sixteenth General Conference of The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS) was held in a hybrid format from November 21 to 24.
Hundreds of scientists — including TWAS fellows, TWAS Young Affiliates and Alumni, ministers of science and technology, and dignitaries from all over the world — gathered in an online and offline meeting in Hangzhou, the capital of China’s eastern coastal province of Zhejiang.
In the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development set by the United Nations, they discussed how to leverage basic sciences to promote evidence-based decision-making and sustainable development in developing countries.
The offline event was held at one of China’s most desirable universities, Zhejiang University (ZJU), which renowned British scientist Dr. Joseph Needham hailed as “Cambridge of the East”.
The reason why this Chinese institution of higher learning is entitled to host such a heavyweight international conference is not only because of its 125-year history and academic heritage, but also because of its long-standing commitment to social responsibility and global commitment as an important starting point and goal of talent cultivation, scientific research and social service.
As a leading comprehensive research university, ZJU’s research achievements in many basic science fields contribute to the realization of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the medical field, the world’s first human cell landscape at single-cell level was born in ZJU in 2020, whose research method will have a profound impact on the identification of normal and disease cell states in the human body, and is expected to help doctors identify abnormal cell states and origins in the future.
Ye Ming’er, associate professor of horticulture at ZJU, has been named “Food Hero” by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for his constant efforts in promoting fruit tree technology for over 30 years. His innovative approach has boosted growth and yield of several fruits, increasing farmers’ income as well as protecting natural resources.
“We have also built a healthy eco-environment at the orchard, where sheep feed on grass and its dung is in turn used as fertilizers for fruit trees, thus protecting the environment and ensuring the food safety,” said Ye.
In helping coping with climate change, China’s first artificial upwelling demonstration project, led by ZJU and completed with other domestic peers, is capable of boosting phytoplankton and algae yield, restoring the marine ecological environment, and enhancing marine carbon sinks. It has been listed as a marine carbon sink program by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The list goes on. In recent years, ZJU has integrated the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into all aspects of its development, focusing on cultivating students’ sustainable development competence, enriching academic ecology, strengthening interdisciplinary research, and promoting global coordination and cooperation.
In March 2021, ZJU launched the Global ZJU for Social Good (Z4G) to integrate the university’s own development into the global agenda, contribute its part to the implementation of the UN SDGs in China, and help build a Chinese model of sustainable development.
After the release of the Z4G, ZJU held a series of activities to walk its talk. At the end of that month, ZJU, together with more than 50 leading universities in the world including Harvard University, issued the Joint Statement of Global University Leaders on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is the first global initiative for sustainable development initiated by a Chinese university.
In April this year, ZJU, together with three overseas universities, jointly held the first Asia-Pacific Carbon Neutrality Symposium online, featuring robust discussions on carbon capture, utilization and sequestration, sustainable energy, and sustainable city and construction. The online meeting played a role in promoting cross-institutional knowledge sharing in the Asia-Pacific region and solutions to major global challenges.
Four months later, ZJU joined hands with its global partners to launch the SDG Global Summer School, which attracted nearly 1,000 outstanding students from more than 80 countries and regions around the world to participate online.
They exchanged views with top scholars at home and abroad. Discussions were conducted over such issues as post-COVID-19 urban governance and building a safe and sustainable food supply chain, contributing their parts to a better future for the world.
Stephanie Ann, a summer school participant from Singapore, spoke highly of the Carbon Neutrality module. “The holistic approach to climate change is what makes the ZJU SDG Summer School very insightful. The lecturers, assignments and group tasks not only allow us to apply the knowledge we have learnt, but also propel us to ponder and explore the topics on our own.”
At the TWAS 16th General Conference, Hangzhou Declaration was unveiled in addition to the pooling of ideas and solutions on SDGs and basic sciences. The declaration calls on all stakeholders to join hands, uphold the concept of open science, strengthen South-South and North-South cooperation, and work together to open up new prospects for global basic sciences development.
“In the future, we look forward to working with you to advocate for inclusive and green development, enhance basic sciences and multidisciplinary research, nurture top-notch innovative talent in basic sciences and further deepen international engagement,” said Ren Shaobo, Chairman of the University Council of ZJU, at the opening ceremony of the Conference.
“Thus, we are hoping to scale up higher education’s distinctive contributions to the common development of mankind and the lasting prosperity of our society,” Ren added.