Science and Society

Science and Society

By Prof. Armida S. Alisjahbana

Armida AlisjahbanaMinistry of National Development Planning/ National Development Planning Agency

Keynote Speech for The Seventh Open Science Meeting (OSM) 2014 “Science and Society”

By Prof. Armida S. Alisjahbana Minister of National Development Planning/ Head of National Development Agency

Makassar, 27 January 2014

Professor Sangkot Marzuki (President Indonesian Academy of Sciences)
Professor Hans Clevers (President Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)
Professor Idrus Paturusi (Hasanuddin University)
Professor Irawan Yusuf (Head Local Organizing Committee)
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

A Very Good Morning to all of You,

It is my pleasure and privilege to be addressing you this morning during the Opening Ceremony of The Seventh Open Science Meeting (OSM) 2014 here in Makassar. May I congratulate all parties involved in organizing this very important event, in particular, the Indonesian Academy of Science (AIPI), Universitas Hasanuddin (UNHAS), and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

My speech will contain four key points. First, I will make some brief comments on the nexus between science and society – the theme for OSM 2014. Second, I will explain some of Indonesian Government policies for improving the interaction and cross-fertilization of science and society. Third, I will present some recent examples of innovations in science and society interaction, as well as opportunities for furthering such interaction. Fourth, I will consider some of the challenges that we face.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The history of scientific contributions to society is well documented. Innovations in medical and technological knowledge, transport and communications, social and political concepts, as well as the study of history and philosophy, have all contributed to shape society. One of the keys to scientific advances is in how societies share knowledge. We are familiar with the Islamic contribution to science, especially in the fields of astronomy and mathematics, as well as European industrial advances and contributions to medicine and political thought. In the current age of the information and communications revolution, sharing knowledge is much easier, and the speed of which is unprecedented.

Today, there is a growing expectation that science contribute to societal well-being, economic growth and better public policy formulation by means of knowledge utilization, or “valorization” and innovation.

As Bruce Alberts said in his editorial after five years at Science Magazine, “Scientific values of honesty, respect for evidence, openness and tolerance are critical for every nation; and scientific approaches to problem-solving are essential everywhere for meeting societal challenges”.

All sciences – natural, engineering, social and human – have a role to play in guarding and advancing societal welfare, economic growth and better public policies.

The natural sciences and engineering are important for understanding and conserving the natural environment, creating new food products, medical breakthroughs, advances in construction, communication and transport, and utilizing our natural resources for energy production, while the social sciences help us understand society, politics, economics and relationships among individuals and institutions, thus leading to social, political, and economic improvements in each of these spheres.

In Indonesia, for example, having a good understanding of our own natural environment is essential for societal well-being and economic growth today, as well as for future generations. As you may know, Indonesia is one of the world’s biologically wealthiest countries, ranking third in megadiversity after Brazil and Congo. Our sheer number and varieties of unique organisms and ecosystems, the size of our biological habitat, our richness in flora and fauna, and our high number of endemic species makes Indonesia one of twelve centres of biodiversity in the world.

However, as the thematic introduction to OSM 2014 correctly explains, there is an inherent tension between the three domains of market, society and science and technology, whereby the criteria for market profitability, societal well-being and scientific quality and integrity will not always point in the same direction. The challenges for OSM 2014 of how societal conditions can be improved to make science more robust and relevant to play its societal role are very much in tune with Indonesia’s own development challenges.

It is for these challenges that many of us are gathered here for the next couple of days, to formulate a critical agenda for improving the relationships between Science and Society. I am encouraged by the theme of this meeting and hope that you may share lessons with the government.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to continue to my second point on how we are working to improve the interaction and cross-fertilization of science and society in Indonesia.

Indonesia is in a unique situation: we are a lower-middle income country, member of the G20 group of nations but with many people still living in poverty. There is much we can learn from other countries experience in encouraging collaboration between the market, society, and science and technology. We are also drawing on some of the latest thinking coming out of universities around the world, especially those with an emerging focus on “science and technology for poverty”.

In regard to government policy, there are five broad national policy directions for developing the national innovation capacity and strengthening relationships between science and society. First is to increase the capacity and capability of R&D agencies to support the process of transferring ideas from laboratory and industry prototypes into commercial products.

The second policy direction is to increase the capacity and capability of our Science and Technology resources for greater R&D productivity efficiencies. The third is to develop and strengthen institutional networks among researchers, including at the national and international level.

Fourth is to increase R&D productivity and creativity for the provision of technology required by industry and society, including cultivating a culture of creativity in society; and the fifth is to raise R&D efficiencies in the production sectors to increase the national economy and the value of R&D nationally

Another relevant government intervention is Indonesia’s Masterplan for Accelerating Economic Growth, or MP3EI. One of MP3EI’s main strategies is “to improve human resources and national science and technology capabilities”. The rationale is that in the era of Knowledge-based economy, the engine of economic growth depends heavily on the capitalization of inventions to become innovation products. In this context, a well-educated pool of human resources plays a key role in supporting sustainable economic growth. Therefore, the education and training system must be able to create human resources that can adapt well to the development of science and technology.

The legacy of our labour-intensive natural resource-based economy needs to be gradually improved towards skilled labour-intensive and eventually to human capital-intensive. Two specific activities emerging from the MP3EI work, namely the revitalisation of our National Centre for R&D (PUSPIPTEK) as a Science and Technology Park and establishing regional innovation clusters for equitable growth.

The Science and Technology Park aims to deliver innovation-based SMI/SME in the various strategic areas in order to optimize interaction and utilization of universities, R&D institutions, and the business community to deliver innovative products.

The regional innovation clusters aim to build on existing initiatives of communities, businesses and local governments, such as an Agroindustry Innovation Zone in North Gresik, East Java and a Non-Renewable and Renewable Energy-Based Innovation Zone in East Kalimantan. We are also going to establish Centres for Excellence in each of the six Economic Corridors based on respective regional potential and resources.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will now turn to the third part of my speech and provide you with some recent innovations and emerging opportunities in a range of sectors including food security, energy and the environment, health and pharmaceuticals.

Regarding food security, the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) study on Bioresources for the Development of the Green Economy in February 2013, they found that there is an opportunity to revitalise existing markets and open up new markets. For example in the sugar market, they found that one palm sugar tree produces as much as 360kg every 3 months per flower cluster. With the normal palm sugar price of Rp.8000/kg a farmer can reap around USD100 a month per for each flower cluster.

Furthermore, the National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN) is undertaking research on radiation and isotope technology applications to increase productivity and the variety of superior seeds, and has released 20 varieties of mutant rice crops, representing around 10 per cent of the total national rice varieties, while LIPI research has resulted in two new varieties.

-4- In the energy sector, LIPI has succeeded in developing a new biofuel “Pure Plant Oil” and an automatic converter which has succeeded in the testing phase. Bioresources also contribute to the development of renewable energy. For example, the cellulose of the Perombak Beetle increases the enzymes contained in bioethanol products. Other sources to produce bioethanol is biomass-cellulose from Industrial waste such as palm oil, copra, cocoa, coffee, sugar cane, tea, wood, bamboo, and others. Further, microalgae is being considered as Blue Energy from the ocean.

BATAN is also developing its nuclear energy capabilities, including producing nuclear fuel, building and operating reactors and nuclear waste facilities, as well as undertaking preparations for building Nuclear Power Plants in strategic locations. Indonesia also has an opportunity to make a significant contribution to carbon storage in confronting climate change. Indonesia’s marine resources include seagrass measuring 830 tons carbon/hectare, which is greater than land forests and is capable of storing 300 tons carbon/hectare.

In the health sector, the Eijkman Molecular Biology Institute has undertaken research on red blood cell abnormalities, malaria infections and drugs, genome diversity, and forensic DNA identifications. BATAN has also developed methods to detect bacterial resistant tuberculosis using nuclear-based molecular biology, as well as techniques for detecting radiosensitive biomarker cells for radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment for cervical and breast cancer sufferers. Regarding pharmaceuticals and chemicals, we have a great diversity of bioresources that can be used as drug ingredients.

In the field of JCT, collaboration between several research institutes resulted in the development of a Tsunami Early Warning System in the form of a network of data acquisition, data transmission and data processing, which has been placed off the coast of West Sumatra near the epicentre of the devastating 2004 tsunami. The device was launched in December 2008.

The Government has also been active in developing Open Source Software which has been applied to E-Government in a few local governments around the country, the aim of which is to encourage greater digital interactions between government and citizens, as well as with the business and (ideally) with the scientific community.

While I will not go into detail now, we also have some advances in Transport, Defence and Security, and Advanced Materials technology.

I trust that these examples illustrate government support for scientific contributions to societal well-being, economic growth and better public policy formulation by means of knowledge utilization and innovation.

I am sure the Ministry of Research and Technology representative will expand on some of these themes.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have outlined some of our policies, recent innovations and opportunities in innovation and valorization, but we are also faced with challenges, which takes me to the fourth and final point of my speech.

For Indonesia, the list of challenges and what we need to improve is long. Our challenges can be grouped into three main categories. First is human constraints, that is, we need to increase the quality of our Indonesian researchers, including those working in academia, research institutes and industry. Second is the supporting infrastructure. Among others, we have a limited number of laboratories to undertake research, limited tools to work with and limitations of research budgets meaning we can only do research that is affordable. Third we need to improve our investment and business climate and create better financial incentives in allocating research funding, especially for industrial and commercial research.

To deal with the first challenge we have started providing universal education for the first twelve years – from primary to senior high school. You may know that Indonesia is investing heavily in our education sector – 20 per cent of the national budget – but education quality remains a problem which we need to tackle in the next 5-10 years. We need to invest heavily in effective professional development for science teachers.

In relation to the second and third challenges, we need to re-think our approach to science funding to produce more high quality scientific research and innovations. Only nations with strong, science-based institutions can effectively harvest global sources of knowledge – labour saving devices, improved health and nutrition, and other advances that increase a nation’s prosperity and keep voters satisfied.

Indonesia’s development is not only the government’s business; private citizens and private companies should also be considered as responsible actors and key stakeholders in strengthening the nexus between science and society. One of Indonesia’s weaknesses is we do not have a strong philanthropic culture, like we see in the US for example, where generous endowment funds are critical to the survival – and inception – of innovative research centres.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, may I propose a “science-based approach to development”, where policies are evidence-based, where government, business, and scientists collaborate for mutually beneficial objectives with attention on “science and technology for poverty”, and where institutions are grounded in the values high standards of conduct, integrity, transparency, accountability, and reward for merit and performance.

I encourage representatives from the Indonesian Academy of Science, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and individual presenters, especially some of our junior scientists, to provide further examples of where collaboration between science and society has worked well, as well as recommendations for improvements.

I wish all of you a productive and successful conference. Thank you.

Makassar, 27 January 2014

Minister of National Development Planning/ Head of National Development Planning Agency
Prof. Armida S. Alisjahbana