Thursday, September 29, 2005

AAS and TWAS: Two Academies, One World

This article will have to do Double Duty because I cannot talk about the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) without talking about he Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS - Formerly the "Third World Academy of Science").

AAS says that it is "first and foremost an honorific society which honours and recognizes scientists who have made significant contribution to science in Africa." The organization also has programs designed to produce tangible results in pursuit of its objectives.

TWAS, on the other hand, has supported scientific research in 100 countries in the South through a variety of programmes since 1986. Its web site says that over "2,000 eminent scientists worldwide, including TWAS members, peer review proposals free-of-charge for research grants, fellowships and awards that are submitted to the Academy by scientists and institutions in developing countries.

TWAS claims more than 700 Fellows and Associate Fellows who are elected from among the world's most distinguished scientists. Fellows are citizens of the South and Associate Fellows are citizens of the North who either were born in the South or have made significant contributions to the advancement of science in the South. (I am assuming that the reader understands the references to "the South" and "the North.") Fellows make up about 80 percent of TWAS's membership and they come from over 70 countries in the South.

TWAS, like AAS is an autonomous international non-profit organization. TWAS was founded in Trieste, Italy in 1983 by the late Nobel laureate Abdus Salam of Pakistan and a distinguished group of scientists from the South. Since its founding, it has changed its name from "Third World Academy of Sciences," but it is still known by the initials of its old name.

In 1985 TWA was officially launched by the United Nations' Secretary General, Javier Perez de Cuellar. And since its inception, the Italian government has been very generous to TWAS by financing most of its operational expenses and the organization's secretariat is located on the premises of The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. Aditionally, TWAS works in close collaboration with UNESCO, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and the International Science Programme (ISP).

The African Academy of Sciences was founded under the leadership of the late entomologist Thomas Odhiambo on 6th July 1985 in Trieste, Italy, as an autonomous Africa-wide professional, non-political and non-profit making organization. The AAS's mandate covers four main principal areas:
- Mobilization and strengthening of the African scientific community;
- Publication and dissemination of scientific materials;
- Research development and policy; and
- Capacity building in science and technology.

During its first decade, AAS achieved most of its objectives and carved out a niche for itself as a forum for intellectual and scientific discourse in Africa. Overcoming many difficulties, the officers and staff of the AAS developed programs that cater to the needs of scientists in the both the physical and social sciences by addressing issues such as: food security, regional integration and conflict resolution in Africa.

AAS currently has a membership of about 125 Fellows comprised of 120 who are elected from 24 African countries and 5 who are Foreign Fellows from 4 countries outside of Africa. These Fellows "are elected from among active African Scientists who have attained the highest international standards in their work. Foreign Fellows are elected from among outstanding non-African scientists who have made a significant contribution to the development of science and its application in Africa."

From relatively modest beginnings, AAS has become widely recognized as an organization that offers a wide range of capacity building programs as well as an avenue for publishing and disseminating information relevant to the African scientist; and a medium and forum for exchange of ideas and information.

AAS says that it would like to "stir up a rural scientific revolution in Africa." In Africa, it has been recognized by the AU, which has granted it an Observer Status. And beyond Africa, AAS partners with other international organizations such as the Inter-Academies Panel (IAP) where AAS is a member of the Executive Committee.

In May of 2005 the Kenyan government gave official recognition to the AAS, and this has facilitated the organization being able to begin construction of its headquarters on the two-hectare site it owns close to the centre of Nairobi. The construction of the building will be financed out of a US$5 million endowment from the government of Nigeria. Construction is expected to finish by the end of the year.

Both the AAS and TWAS are doing great things for Africa, the Developing World and for the entire Global Community, and you can read more about them at the following web sites.

Academy of Sciences for the Developing World

African Academy of Sciences

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