Excerpts from Reporter’s Notes
On the second day of the 11th Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences, in the Dead Sea, Jordan, Nobel Laureate Walter Kohn gave a lecture titled “A World Powered Predominantly By Solar & Wind Energy. And I attended two panel discussions, one on industry-academia interaction and the other on scientists’ social responsibilities. Following are excerpts from my notes.
On alternative energy
Nuclear energy should be used only if we can be sure that the world has reached agreements that can be trusted so that development of nuclear power is not channeled into the next phase of development of nuclear weapons. It is better not to rely on that; better to go with solar and wind.—Walter Kohn, Nobel Laureate
On industry-academia relations
The most important factor is efficiency and productivity. People are overly concerned with intellectual property and royalty. The goal is to see realization of academic achievements put to good use. Eventually we will come to the point of intellectual property aspect.—Youngkyu Do, KAIST
Research is transforming money into knowledge; innovation is transforming knowledge to money. Industry would like for students to learn things other than pure science, to engage in entrepreneurial thinking during studies. –Bernhard Schleich, Evonik Degussa
From left: Chen, Do, and Schleich
On the future of chemistry professionals
Can we still have department of chemistry in 2025? Nobody knows. Chemistry will be required by many other disciplines. Chemists don’t have to work only in the chemical or pharmaceutical industries. Many of my students go to the electronic industry—Youngkyu Do, KAIST
Chemists have a brilliant future in many branches. I do not agree with you that chemists are out of work; that is true in the U.S. mostly. Chemical companies are doing extremely well; we run the fear that we will not have enough chemists.—Bernhard Schleich, Evonik Degussa
Chemists will practice in new areas of technology; basic sciences, including chemistry, will not go away—Chu-Huang (Mendel) Chen, Texas Heart Institute
Today, 95% of energy production has not much to do with chemistry. In 50 years, 95% of energy will have to do with chemistry; materials and all the new energy technologies are connected to chemistry.—Bernhard Schleich, Evonik Degussa
On scientists’ social responsibilities
The most effective way to deal with depletion of gas and oil by end of century is education for women. This is not a sexist remark; this is a demonstrated fact. In Iraq, the government successfully promoted birth control, and the average number of children per woman was reduced by 40%. As a result of fewer children, women were able to acquire the same kind of higher education as men did. In Jordan, women are the majority of university students; the usual family size is 2-3 children. Stabilizing population gives us time to develop alternative clean energy.—Walter Kohn, Nobel Laureate
For practical results, science needs to act in a context. To deal with fundamental issues, some fundamental conditions must be fulfilled: It takes at least one meal a day before you start thinking about biodiversity. Public has to be educated enough to understand what we are talking about. –Leiv Sydnes, University of Bergen
Are we free to study what we want to study? We are not free. [We are limited by] government, money, religion. Jordanian women are free to wear a veil or not. But are they really free? We don’t see any miniskirts. Research and religion, there is a problem. –Ivano Bertini, University of Florence
I begin with who we are as human beings, and how scientists have evolved as concerned human beings. I’ve been an activist since I was 14 years old. I have a little badge, the peace sign, developed by graphic artist for campaign for disarmament. When I was at MIT, it was the time of Vietnam War, and I was out in the streets of Cambridge, Mass., protesting the war. I ended up being chair of animal care committee at the University of Illinois, Chicago. I was concerned about the ethics of animal testing. I got involved in ethical issues of human subject research. . . .Another point about social responsibility is the human relationship in science. I ended up being dean of college of pharmacy. We were the first college to have a sensitivity training, with respect to religious, sexual orientation, in the diversity of human culture. . . .In 2000, I was the first person in natural products, to accept an invitation to visit Iran. I have been back to Iran three times. My colleagues asked: What on Earth are you doing in Iran? Why would you do that? My response was: It’s my responsibility. I owe it to them. I’m honored and flattered to go. I will be there. When you look at core human values and interact with people on that basis, lots of things can happen. It’s the reason I went to Iran. —Geoffrey Cordell, Natural Products Inc.
Access to knowledge, scientific institutions is getting more and more difficult. A large part of humanity is not contributing to the generation of knowledge.—Zafra Lerman, Mimsad Inc.
Whereas the greater population is drawn apart by competition for what they need, scientists have a value that draws us together: The more science, the better—Nancy Jackson, American Chemical Society
Can we make this conference a launching pad for an international gathering addressing only the social responsibility of scientists?—Mohammad Halaiqa, former deputy prime minister of Jordan