Issue Date: November 10, 2005
Science For Peace In The Middle East
Scientists from 12 Middle Eastern nations and the Palestinian Authority met from Nov. 4 to 10 for the second conference designed to forge relationships between scientists in the region. Organizers hope the meeting will draw the attention of national governments to the fact that improving regional scientific cooperation could aid economic development and promote political reconciliation.
The five-day meeting, held on neutral ground in the Mediterranean island republic of Malta, was organized by the American Chemical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the German Chemical Society, and the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry. It built upon the progress made to overcome political and cultural boundaries during a similar meeting held in Malta two years ago.
"We can't leave the peace process in the Middle East only to the politicians," commented Zafra M. Lerman of Columbia College Chicago. Spreading the message that everyone can work together "is the best thing we can do for the Middle East," she told C&EN. Lerman served as chair of the conference organizing committee and leads the ACS Committee on Scientific Freedom & Human Rights.
"The unfettered and timely exchange of ideas, information, and research findings is absolutely critical for the advancement of science," ACS President-Elect E. Ann Nalley said during the opening ceremony. "Together, we can catalyze the scientific interactions that are essential to the progress and welfare of all people, no matter what language we speak or no matter what our ideologies are."
Malta 2, as the conference was called, was headlined by six Nobel Laureates and other distinguished chemists who gave plenary lectures over five days. The key topics covered were environmental air and water quality, medicinal chemistry, nanotechnology, science education, and energy and solar cells.
Workshops held in conjunction with the plenary sessions highlighted research by some of the 65 prominent Middle Eastern scientists attending the conference and provided a forum to discuss challenges and needs in the topical areas. A poster session held throughout the conference featured presentations by nearly 40 of the Middle Eastern scientists.
By the close of the Malta 2 conference, new action items had been identified for the topical areas, and working groups had been established to pursue international funding opportunities for projects in some areas. The conference atmosphere was friendly and optimistic, although many of the scientists remained concerned that progress might be limited until the overall political climate improves in the Middle East.
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