The UN Agenda for 2030 identifies climate change, biodiversity, oceans, health and other sustainable development goals as major challenges in the 21st century. Profound scientific understanding is key to underpinning the policies and solutions that humanity needs for a transformative transition to a sustainable future. However, science communities are still siloed in addressing this challenge. This is true of basic life science which has not been engaged in supporting sustainability transformations, as this discourse has been predominantly the domain of environmental and sustainability science.
In June 2023, the Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) will initiate an international effort to build bridges between basic life science and environmental science communities at academic, policy and funding levels with the aim of discussing solutions offered by basic life science that have the potential to accelerate the sustainability transition. This initiative will take the form of a High-Level Summit entitled Fundamental Life Science meets Climate, Environment and Sustainability: new bridges – new partnerships – new opportunities, followed by a two-day International Scientific Symposium.
To better connect fundamental science to climate change and sustainability transition challenges, the U.N. General Assembly declared 2022-2023 to be the U.N. International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development. The Summit is proposed as HFSPO and its partners’ contribution to the U.N. International Year of Basic Science for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD).
Indeed, basic science remains one of the most creative, untapped wells of knowledge and solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Disciplines such as molecular and developmental biology have enormous potential to help people advance creative solutions that promote greater sustainability. Likewise, scientists in neuroscience and cognitive sciences may be able to provide vital knowledge in understanding human and societal behavior in the transition to a low carbon society and economy. Interdisciplinary approaches are especially important for these purposes, but what is currently missing is a holistic integrative approach that connects the fragments in a meaningful way to accelerate sustainable development transitions.
Unlimited opportunities to tackle the challenges of a sustainable transformation also lie in the convergence between basic life sciences and engineering, which are expected to drive rapid innovations in the next decade.
HFSPO was established by the G7 countries at the initiative of former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone of Japan at the 1987 Venice Summit. Open to scientists of every nation, HFSPO is supported by 17 members, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the European Commission. The mission of HFSPO is to foster bold, basic, frontier research in the life sciences and interdisciplinary collaborations around the world. Since 1990, close to 8,000 researchers from more than 70 countries have been supported. Of these, 28 HFSP awardees have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize.
HFSP will partner with other leading organizations to present the High-level Summit and International Scientific Symposium to make the fullest possible use of cross-cutting initiatives at the government level and with the global scientific community. The Summit will be held under the distinguished patronage of President Emmanuel Macron and the two events will be organized by the French Government - Ministry of Higher Education and Research (MESR) and the International Human Frontier Science Program (HFSPO), in collaboration with UNESCO, UN Year of Basic Science for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD), the French Academy of Sciences, the Pasteur Institute, the National Research Agency (ANR), the International Science Council, the CNRS, EMBL and the ERC.