CERN announces major conference on the information society

A side event to the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, December 2003) will explore the past and future contributions of science to the information society. Hosted by CERN1, the Role of Science in the Information Society (RSIS) conference will bring together scientists and representatives of funding agencies and governments worldwide.

In March of this year, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a challenge to the world's scientists. While "recent advances in information technology, genetics and biotechnology hold extraordinary prospects for individual well-being and humankind as a whole," he wrote in Science magazine, "the way in which scientific endeavours are pursued around the world is marked by clear inequalities."  Annan called on the world's scientists to work with the United Nations to extend the benefits of modern science to developing countries.

The RSIS conference responds to that challenge. The conference - jointly organised by CERN, the International Council for Science, the Third World Academy of Science and UNESCO - will issue a declaration recognising the contributions of science to electronic information sharing, and an action plan to ensure continued development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their application to science and society. These documents will feed into the World Summit, and will serve as a response from the world's scientists to the UN challenge. "Science underpins much of the information society, and will be the motor behind its continued development," says Robert Eisenstein, President of the Santa Fe Institute and member of the RSIS executive committee. "This conference provides a unique opportunity for scientists of all disciplines to share ideas with governmental representatives and to form a common vision of the future."

The World Summit on the Information Society is organised by the International Telecommunications Union under the patronage of Kofi Annan. Participants will discuss how best to use ICTs, such as the Internet, for the benefit of all. The first phase, in Geneva, Switzerland, will take place from 10-12 December 2003, while the second phase will be in Tunis, Tunisia in 2005.

The RSIS conference will be held on 8-9 December in Geneva. Sessions will include talks on the history of the Internet and the World Wide Web; how science has both contributed to and benefited from these advances; and ways in which ICTs may revolutionise education, health care, environmental stewardship, economic development and enabling technologies. A major focus will be on overcoming the digital divide between the haves and the have-nots of the information society. Distinguished speakers including WWW inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Ismail Serageldin, the Director-General of the Library of Alexandria, and President Ion Iliescu of Romania will lead the plenary discussions and a series of parallel sessions. A complete programme, with speakers, is now available here.

With a highly distributed global community, high-energy physicists were the first to appreciate the benefits of swift information transfer between far-flung computers. Developed in 1990 at CERN, the World Wide Web allowed them to do this, and has gone on to revolutionise the modern communications landscape.

Notes for editors

CERN is the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, the world's largest fundamental scientific research centre. Founded in 1954, the laboratory was one of Europe's first joint ventures and includes now 20 Member States, as well as formal cooperation agreements with over 30 other nations worldwide.

Founded in 1931, the International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental organization whose mission is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society. The ICSU membership includes both national scientific bodies (101 members) and international scientific unions (27 members).

The Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) is an autonomous international organization, founded in Trieste, Italy in 1983. With more than 600 Fellows and Associate Fellows, elected from among the world's most distinguished scientists, TWAS's principal aim is to promote scientific capacity and excellence for sustainable development in the global South.

The main objective of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is to contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.

Registration and Information

Registration for the conference will start on September 15 on the RSIS website.

You can contact Ms Shawna Williams, RSIS Information Officer, on tel. +41 22 767 3559 or by email Shawna.Williams@cern.ch

Footnote(s)

1. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have observer status.

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