06 December 2013

Conference speakers: International think tank needed to identify techno-social turning points


Today, the key elements of an open letter addressing everyone in the world is presented at a unique international conference at the University of Copenhagen. The letter recommends the establishment of a new research think tank which can give early warning to decision-makers regarding challenges arising from cutting edge science and technology. People all over the world should insist on the principle of openness. The letter is a concrete result of a conference on Niels Bohr's thoughts on openness.

Professor Ole Waever holding Niels Bohr's open letter to the UN and the conference participants' new open letter to the world.

Friday December 6th is the last day at the international conference “An Open World: Science, Technology and Society in the Light of Niels Bohr’s Thoughts”. Here, Professor and Chairman of the Organizing Committee, Ole Wæver, University of Copenhagen, presents an open letter to the world calling for openness and free sharing of knowledge.

The letter is sent by speakers and session chairs of the conference, and it contains a specific appeal to establish a new think tank:

"We recommend that an independent global think tank be established for identifying and assessing developing scientific and technological challenges and communicating that information to the world, to policymakers and deliberative institutions in particular but also to the general public."

This is necessary in order to respond early enough to surprising new potentials – dangerous or promising - of emerging science and technology:

- As in Niels Bohr’s case with nuclear weapons, developments in science and technology occasionally upend the established way of handling an issue area. Therefore we need a think tank that can alert decision-makers to the potential implications of emerging science and technology in areas such as weaponry, global health, information technology and bioethics. When existing formats for international governance are profoundly insufficient as in the area of climate change, it is an important task to identify the exact nature of this misfit and thereby support work to correct the deficiency, says Ole Wæver.

The letter as well as the conference is inspired by Niels Bohr’s Open Letter to the United Nations written in 1950, and the new letter concludes with the following statement:

"The world lacks early foresight at the research frontier of socio-political implications. This Niels Bohr Open World Think Tank should be open, independent and international."

Openness is the default position

According to the letter openness should be used as a general guideline:

"We propose that all fields are consistently approached on the basis that openness is the default position. Exceptions must be made e.g. for reasons of privacy or security, but these reasons have to be explicit, which every time it is done underlines that the principle and general rule is openness."

The full open letter will be available online next week at anopenworld.ku.dk



Professor Ole Wæver
Phone: +45 2617 4077

Press relations
Mads Christoffersen
Phone: +45 2221 4849