Last week, I attended the Science and Technology in Science and Technology in Society forum (STS forum)in Kyoto, Japan. This annual event, first arranged in 2004, certainly takes the idea of sustainability and long-term planning to a new level. Based on the technological development that has created prosperity and economic growth for so many people around the world, but that also implies major challenges, not least when it comes to climate change and increased divides between rich and poor, the STS forum takes a serious look at humankind and the world 100–500 years into the future. This year’s event focused on the topics of artificial intelligence and the use and management of data, both of which are highly relevant not only in our sector but also in society in general.
I would say that the STS forum is a very important conference to us. Not primarily because of its content, but in particular as a meeting place. The context of the event provides a unique perspective of the world that can be difficult to obtain elsewhere. It attracts a large number of high-ranking individuals with great influence and authority. Numerous ministers and Nobel laureates have participated over the years. As is customary, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave the opening speech. The theme was technology and artificial intelligence and how we as individuals are affected by the development.
I greatly appreciated the special meeting where about 50 vice-chancellors and other heads of higher education institutions around the world discussed the big challenges that all of us are struggling with. One important issue we discussed at the meeting was how to strengthen our universities so that we can deal with the societal challenges and the demands we are facing in the best possible way, at the same time as we safeguard our core values and our absence of political, ideological and economic ties. For example, when it comes to data management, the big challenge concerns how we can handle data in an ethically acceptable manner. This problem implies a big responsibility, especially since researchers from many different countries are involved, countries with widely differing legislations.
The forum is also a valuable platform for networking and spreading of knowledge about the University of Gothenburg internationally. Although I already knew many of the other university leaders at the meeting, including the ones from the University of Amsterdam, University College London, the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University and the National University of Singapore, as a vice-chancellor I interact with them from an entirely new platform, which makes a big difference.
In Japan, I also took the opportunity to discuss collaborations, existing as well as new, and student and researcher exchanges with several of the country’s universities. The University of Gothenburg currently has separate faculty agreements in place with Tokyo University, but we would like to expand this to University-wide cooperation as it would help facilitate both mobility and research collaborations. It would also provide increased opportunities for new doctoral scholarships. We are also discussing new collaborations with the University of Kyoto.
Once back in Gothenburg, the students made my day by giving me a nice mallet I can use when I make decisions. The mallet was a delayed installation gift and, as I understand it, a direct reference to my emphasis on student influence. I have already put it to use and promise I will bring it with me to meetings also in the future.
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