IFS Celebrates and Looks Ahead – The 50th Anniversary Forum on Science for Peace, Prosperity and Justice

Published: 2022-11-30

On 10 November 2022, 46 colleagues and friends gathered to celebrate IFS’s half-century of supporting more than 8,800 early-career researchers in more than 100 countries. Held on the premises of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) in Stockholm – one of IFS’s founding member organisations – the Forum’s participants represented current, former and prospective members of the IFS community, including alumni, Scientific Advisory Committee members, partners, donors, Board of Trustees and Secretariat staff. Several other colleagues were invited to participate in the Forum as keynote and panel speakers on issues related to the decolonization of science and the strengthening of science and impact with indigenous peoples and local community organisations.

Nighisty Ghezae, DirectorNighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

In addition to the release of the IFS 50th Anniversary Booklet, which is available for downloading here, throughout the day of the Forum participants also enjoyed video screenings of testimonials and congratulations from IFS grantees and alumni from around the world, as well as from partner organisations such as Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). Forum participants were also connected in almost-real-time to the COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt, through the screening of a professionally-produced video narrated by IFS alumni Dr David Chiawo, about his participation in a meeting organized by the African Association of Business Schools, and IFS’s involvement in developing plans to source global funds for climate research. The anniversary celebrations continued into the evening’s Forum dinner which featured remarks from a representative of the Pugwash Conferences – out of which IFS was established in 1972 – along with songs and poems performed by the IFS Secretariat staff.

The Forum opened with remarks by Dr Tuula Teeri, President, IVA; Prof Patrick Van Damme, IFS Board Chair; and Mr Alan AtKisson, Assistant Director-General, Sida; followed by a presentation of IFS’s 50 years of achievements by Dr Nighisty Ghezae, IFS Director. The two keynote presentations on the theme of “science for peace, prosperity and justice” were given by Prof Arun Agrawal, University of Michigan, and Dr Margaret Rugadya, The Tenure Facility. Prof Agrawal spoke of how research on “the commons” has been dominated by a focus on the role of the state and markets and the conditions necessary for them to work, while completely missing community-level challenge-focused “emergent” research on what works. Dr Rugadya took the gathering along on her personal journey from community activist to grant manager via an intermediary role between research and policy and practice bringing together researchers, communities, and policy-makers to co-create solutions. However, Arun and Margaret arrived at the same place – that we need more trans-disciplinary research in which researchers, communities, policy-makers and practitioners work together to identify problems, collaborate on interdisciplinary research, co-analyse results, and co-produce solutions.

The first of the Forum’s two panels was inspired by the efforts of IFS alumni in Africa and Asia to draw attention to the decolonization of science. It was chaired by Prof Suneetha Kadiyala, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with panelists Dr Adedotun Afolayan (Nigeria), Dr María Eugenia Flores-Giubi (Paraguay), Dr Kathelyn Paredes Villanueva (Bolivia) and Dr Babita Paudel (Nepal). Drawing on their practical experiences as IFS grantees in their own countries, the panelists spoke about facing real problems of lack of resources, institutional and systemic inequalities within and between southern research institutions, even bigger ones between them and northern institutions, and how we are all at the mercy of our respective wider socio-economic, cultural and political contexts. The panel emphasised manageable solutions such as relatively small changes in research funding mechanisms and budgets, an emphasis on more equitable partnerships, and strengthening local national, regional and global research networks.

Chaired by Dr Sajitha Bashir, formerly of the World Bank, the second panel on strengthening science and impact with indigenous peoples and local community organisations, had as panelists Mr Stephen Moiko (Kenya), Mr Samuel Nguiffo (Cameroon) and Dr Kathelyn Paredes Villanueva (Bolivia). Although the panel provided a number of examples of the involvement of local people and indigenous knowledge in action-research projects, it was also noted that there has generally not been much progress over the past four decades in terms of valuing local communities’ contributions in scientific endeavours and progress, and the question remains about how indigenous people can best be supported by global scientific networks and institutions.

Prof Malcolm Beveridge, IFS Board member, and Dr Nighisty Ghezae, IFS Director, then presented “IFS 2.0 – Towards a New Strategic Direction”. They suggested that IFS’s next chapter be grounded in its history, vision and mission, that it continue with its proven model of supporting the research of early-career scientists in the Global South with grants and capacity-enhancing support, and that it broaden its scope of engagement to include partnerships with indigenous peoples and local community organisations (and their young scholars), new modalities of working with other science capacity-building organisations, and new kinds of collaborations with industrial partners and scientists in the Global South.

In the Forum’s final session, several participants offered reflections on the day’s discussions and findings, and on the way forward for IFS. They mentioned:

  • The unique culture and remit of IFS and its reputation in countries of the Global South
  • Concerns about changing the nature and operations of IFS, and not losing its soul
  • The hope that IFS continues to be inclusive, with its support to women in science, and also now with the possibilities of working with indigenous peoples organisations, and
  • How although the issues raised may have been discomforting to some, IFS will still be helping to create the best science possible by embracing indigenous peoples, local communities and indigenous knowledge.

IFS is grateful to each of the participants in the 50th Anniversary Forum, for bringing their passions and ideas, for their unwavering support of IFS, and making the Forum a success.

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae



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