Last week, David Willetts and I co-chaired the first G8 meeting with both G8 science ministers and academy presidents. In the meeting, which was part of the UK’s G8 Presidency programme, we discussed how G8 nations can lead efforts to improve the coordination of global research – both to address global challenges and to maximise the social and economic benefits of research.
During the meeting the enormity, complexity and urgency of major global challenges became clear and, coupled with the fact that the G8 accounts for over half of global GDP and over 70% of OECD publicly funded research, it is clear that we have not just an opportunity but an obligation to work together.
We began by considering where collective efforts might be focused and several priority areas emerged, including antimicrobial resistance. But we also discussed how openness, coherence and coordination will help to harness the transformative potential of science and innovation and develop more joined up approaches to the biggest problems, now and in the future. Another theme of our discussion was the need for scientists to work with experts from other fields – the arts, humanities and social sciences – and with partners from all around the world.
The G8 Science Ministers approved a joint statement which, it is hoped, will usher in a new phase of cooperation. The statement was presented to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt.Hon George Osborne MP, who will attend the G8 Summit on 17-18 June. With science as a “personal priority”, he was keen to hear how to improve the efficiency and productivity of research by collaborating on a big scale.
It is the responsibility of each host country to decide the priorities of their Presidency and how to organise the G8 meetings. I think it says a lot about British science that we have just hosted the first ever joint meeting of G8 science ministers and Academy presidents and I for one, hope that this model will continue.