Student Pugwash USA 20th Anniversary Conference

Student Pugwash USA 20th Anniversary Conference

Science and Social Responsibility in the New Millennium
June 28 – July 4, 1999,
University of California, San Diego

By Anna Moden
Associate Director, Student Pugwash USA

STUDENT Pugwash USA celebrated its twentieth anniversary this summer with an international reunion conference entitled “Science and Social Responsibility in the New Millennium.” The conference took place at the University of California, San Diego, where Student Pugwash USA was founded in 1979. Two-hundred and two participants from 31 countries gathered at UCSD, including international Student Pugwash alumni, current students, senior experts and policy-makers. Together we examined social and ethical issues associated with advances in science and technology, covering a wide range of topics including nuclear weapons, genetics, energy and the environment, communications technologies, the prospects of a war-free world, and the interaction between science, technology and culture.

This event marked twenty years of involving students and young people in important dialogue on social and ethical issues surrounding science and technology. In a world where these issues are increasingly influential, Student Pugwash USA has provided, and continues to provide, a unique forum for discussion. This was the first time we invited alumni to participate in an international conference and the meeting gave current students and alumni an exciting opportunity to network and share experiences and ideas. Many alumni from previous conferences have moved into leadership positions and are making an impact in academia, business, and government. We have experienced a tremendous increase of energy in our network after the conference, promising increased alumni engagement in the future. To assess the impact Student Pugwash USA has made over the last twenty years, we have initiated an in-depth evaluation process of our programs, starting at the conference. The process involved thorough pre- and post-conference evaluation and there also will be a one-year follow-up.

We were very pleased that Professor Joseph Rotblat was able to join us in San Diego. He delivered the first Joseph Rotblat Lecture of Science and Social Responsibility, “Science and Humanity at the Turn of the Millennium,” and thereby launched a lecture series that Student Pugwash USA has initiated in his honor. He also spoke on a plenary entitled “How Did We Get Here? Pugwash and Student Pugwash” with Jeffrey Leifer, the founder of Student Pugwash USA, and Sandra Ionno, Student Pugwash USA’s executive director. During this session, Sandra read greetings to the conference participants from Sir Michael Atiyah and George Rathjens.

We were privileged to work with outstanding Pugwashites to organize the conference. Ruth Adams and Herbert York provided invaluable encouragement, advice and support and the conference would not have been possible without the their great belief in young people. Over a dozen other Pugwashites also joined us for the conference.

A number of distinguished experts spoke at the conference, sharing their views and expertise on current topics, and inviting the conference participants to interesting and inspiring discussions:

  • The social consequences of genetics was the topic of a plenary session with Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the US National Institutes of Health, and Georges Kutukdjian, director of the Division of the Ethics of Science and Technology at UNESCO.
  • Patti Whaley, the deputy secretary general of Amnesty International, spoke on communications technologies and human rights in Kosovo, giving very concrete examples of how new technologies can be used to alleviate and prevent human rights abuses. Martin Butcher from BASIC served as a discussant at this session.
  • Ruth Adams led a session entitled “Global Crossroads,” a panel discussion on how the forces of increased global interaction can create positive incentives for peace and cooperation. Gloria Duffy, director of the Commonwealth Club of California, Kennette Benedict, director of the Program of Global Security and Sustainability at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and two students, Nidhi from India and Tannia Falconer from Mexico, joined her as speakers on the panel.
  • “Disarmament in the New Millennium” was examined on a panel with Frank von Hippel, professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University; Lora Lumpe, senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo; Zia Mian, physicist at the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at Princeton University; and Natalie Goldring, executive director, Program on General Disarmament at the University of Maryland.
  • Student Pugwash USA alumnus Hal Harvey, now the executive director of the Energy Foundation and Igor Bashmakov of the Center for Energy Efficiency in Moscow explored energy options for the next millennium at an informative plenary session.
  • Leaders and talented young people from many different fields explored the question “Will science and technology create a more humane 21st century?” on an intergenerational roundtable discussion. Nansen Behar, member of the Bulgarian Parliament, and Marvin Goldberger, dean of natural sciences at UCSD, both strong supporters of Student Pugwash USA, were two of the senior experts taking part in the roundtable.

The conference’s ten working groups, where experts and students learned side by side, covered a wide range of topics. They were moderated by young professionals or advanced students and students also served as rapporteurs for the groups. Senior experts, several of them Pugwashites, had been invited as resource persons for the different groups to provide factual and scientific support. Together participants examined the following topics: communications technologies; computers and biotechnology; education, ethics and science; energy and international security; environment and energy; human genetics; nuclear-weapons-free world; science, technology, and culture; war and disease; and a war-free world. Working group reports are available on our Web site: [].

On July 1, we held a banquet to honor all those who have been involved in the organization and who have made our work possible. Herbert York and Walter Kohn, the 1998 Nobel Laureate for chemistry, both delivered remarks during what turned out to a great evening of celebration. Julia Fu, student representative on Student Pugwash USA’s board of directors and Eric Roberts, the board’s president, also spoke at the banquet, sharing experiences from their involvement in the organization.

We made a special effort to invite members of international Student/Young Pugwash groups to the conference and were pleased that so many were able to attend. One of the most encouraging outcomes of the meeting was the energizing of the international network. At a special session participants discussed ways to strengthen national groups and the possibility of setting up an International Student/Young Pugwash office to help with the coordination between these groups. Professor Rotblat attended this session and expressed his strong support for the further development of the network and of the establishment of such an office. Plans are currently underway to hire an interim international coordinator whose role it would be to explore the feasibility of setting up a permanent International Student/Young Pugwash office.

The conference received some exciting media attention. The meeting was featured in the August 16 issue of The Scientist and also received local newspaper and radio coverage. CNN also conducted interviews with a large number of conference participants for their special series, Millennium Moments.

To expand the impact of the conference, we are putting renewed emphasis on follow-on activities. Using the Internet, conference participants can continue the discussion from their working group on-line; the discussions can be followed at []. We are also planning to publish proceedings, and are exploring how to best take advantage of increased alumni involvement and how to help strengthen the international network. Conference participants were also asked to submit personal plans of action outlining how they will continue to educate themselves and others about science and social responsibility.

The conference was a celebration of achievements but also a fantastic opportunity to look forward and formulate ideas and plans for the future. In today’s society, where rapid scientific advances and new technologies present both challenges and possibilities, it becomes increasingly important to involve young people from all over the world who share a common commitment to creating a better future through the responsible use of science and technology.
Student Pugwash USA
815 15th Street, NW, Suite 814
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-393-6555 or 1-800-WOW-A-PUG
Fax: 202-393-6550