TWAS changes name, but not its mission

The president of TWAS, Jacob Palis, says the academy's mission will remain the same Copyright: TWAS

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[TIANJIN, CHINA] The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) has changed its name to reflect the globalisation of science, but its governance and mission will remain the same, SciDev.Net heard at the 12th General Conference and 23rd TWAS General Meeting in Tianjin, China, this week (18–21 September).

TWAS had previously changed its name from the original ‘Third World Academy of Sciences’, but both terms are now seen as emphasising divisions in the world.

Under its new name, TWAS–The World Academy of Sciences, the organisation will remain dedicated to "the advancement of science in developing countries — but this time in one world", an official TWAS release said (19 September).  

But some members of TWAS are worried.

"It is dangerous if programmes of TWAS move away from a focus on developing countries only; and I’m afraid it will not focus on developing countries in the future," Mansourou Moudachirou, a member of TWAS from West Africa said. "But science is universal and it will be necessary to have more cooperation between developing and developed countries."

Yet, Jacob Palis, president of TWAS, maintains that apart from the name "everything else is the same as before".  

"It still focuses on developing countries and there is no danger of it becoming dominated by US and European or Chinese interests," Palis told SciDev.Net. "The name changed, but the associate fellows of TWAS from developed countries are still limited to only 15 per cent of the total membership and this is reserved only for the top scientists."

"Only scientists from developing countries can be considered for the post of president of TWAS," he added.

Hans van Ginkel, associate fellow of TWAS and professor of geography at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, said: "We tried to bring the wording of TWAS in line with the changing reality of our world. Terms like ‘the third world’ are not appropriate anymore and ‘developing countries’ are changing in character."

"We want to maintain the acronym ‘TWAS’ because it is the brand name of our organization. So, TWAS is now being used for ‘The World Academy of Sciences’, which has ‘the advancement of science in developing countries’ as its special mission, just like before," said van Ginkel.

Zhang Kan, member of TWAS and former vice president of the International Union of Psychological Science, told SciDev.Net: "Science knows no national boundaries in the world. Now China, India and South Africa have changed so fast, we should change the name with the times."