Top scientists brainstorm on ways to propel Lanka into the future


More than 50 expatriate Sri Lankan scientists were in Sri Lanka last week to attend a forum to discuss ways to boost the country’s economic and social development. The arching theme of the event was “Empowering Sri Lanka through Networking and Sharing Scientific Knowledge.”

National Science Foundation chairperson Professor Sirimali Fernando addressing the forum

The three-day event, held at the Galadari Hotel, Colombo, between December 13 and 15, brought together 50 overseas-based Sri Lankan scientists and academics and 170 Sri Lanka-based scientists, industrialists, and science educators. The forum was organised by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United Nations Educational Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The participants discussed nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, advanced design and manufacture, natural resources and food and water security, among other topics. The idea of the global forum of Sri Lankan scientists was first mooted by Professor Tissa Vitarana, when he was Minister of Science and Technology. Prof. Vitarana, who is now senior Minister of Scientific Affairs, said science and research should have high priority on the national development agenda, and that the technology gap was a reflection of the poverty gap in poor and developing countries.

Pavithra Wanniarachchie, Minister of Technology and Research, said the government had adopted a national science and technology strategy to underpin the country’s economic development. National Science Foundation chairperson Professor Sirimali Fernando said China was overtaking the conventional powerhouses in science, a trend that was also being seen in many Asian countries, such as South Korea, Singapore, India and Malaysia. She said Sri Lanka should not fall behind in this Asian rising, and that the country should “harness all resources and take up the challenge.”

Prithi Perera, Secretary-General of the National Commission of UNESCO, said forums like the present one would help mobilise the international community to assist in building up Sri Lanka.

Published on SundayTimes on 18.12.2011

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