The World Science Forum, WSF, brings together some top level scientists and officials of science, research and education systems   (ministers, state secretaries, academy presidents, sometimes heads of state). It meets every other year. This year on the shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan November 7-10.

This year’s general theme was Science for Peace, a particularly meaningful subject in 2017 in a region, the Arab world, devastated regularly by violent conflicts. Talks centred about those areas where science can make a difference in seeking peace. This includes the management of resources and particularly water -also a sensitive issue in all the region-, the consequences of climate change and the tensions this brings, science for policy, nutrition security  among others.

One cannot but get some level of frustration listening to intelligent and  well meant talks by capable colleagues when one knows that economic reasoning benefiting some so often prevails over the search for solutions that would decrease the gaps that divide society. But one also saw when attending sessions that efforts to imagine solutions to pressing problems, like the  reconstruction of societal links and infrastructures, can be designed. It is also always worth reminding people that knowledge is an essential good that must be shared as broadly as possible.

It was interesting to hear a number of speakers state that regional and global decision making processes must be put in place to take over some of the functions that states now have, an opinion I defend in “ From Stars to States. Manifest for Science in Society”, Springer 2017 ( This is true for example when managing underground water reserves that tend not to follow national borders.

I moderated a session on Science for policy in an era of alternative facts (as one politically correctly calls lies and disinformation) and was happy to hear a number of reflections on values in the scientific advice scene or the way to address people stating counter truths. The session gave some hope that we will be able to bring the political and science worlds closer in the coming years.

It was also nice to see many young colleagues of the Arab world take an active participation in parallel as well as in plenary sessions. Young colleagues, males and females, took the word and expressed themselves most constructively. Meetings like this one serve to hear voices that we, Western Europeans, do not often get to listen to.