A message from the USERN President
For good or bad, our world today is a highly interconnected place. For example, over 22 million passenger flights took off in 2021, carrying around almost 3 billion people. A look at the internet further strengthens the feeling that we share the same workplaces, the same discussion fora, the same sources of information. The unstoppable process of a progressive globalization of markets has made us unsure of where in the world a flower we donate or an apple we bite have been grown.
As human beings populating the only habitable place of the Universe we know of, we also unsurprisingly share the same challenges. Threats have become global no less than our markets. We face a unwon battle of famine, the emergence of new pandemics, the challenge of coping with overpopulation, and a continuing struggle to sedate regional conflicts that kill civilians, destroy infrastructure, create further poverty, fuel hatred and desperation, and threaten to become global wars.
Coping with all the above issues is a goal of human progress, but human progress also creates new challenges by itself. Perhaps the most worrisome of these is that the world today faces the impending threat of an acceleration of climate change, which is predicted to affect billions of human beings in the next few decades -but it already does today!- with hardships ranging from unbearable heat to constant flooding, loss of cultivated land, migrations, famine, and increasing poverty. It is always the weakest sector of the population that pays the price of reckless choices made by the wealthiest, and this is profoundly unjust.
In the face of all the above challenges and threats, we see little coordinated action. The competitive nature of the world economy prevents a unified approach and action. We can observe this, e.g., in the weak, inadequate response of our countries to the amassing evidence of a nefarious impact of CO2 emissions on global warming. As the time scale of the creation of consensus around politicians in power is a few years, none of our leaders are willing to take action against problems that develop on longer time scales. But what about scientists?
Scientists around the world work hard to solve big and small problems in their domains, and to amass perhaps the biggest asset that humanity owns: knowledge. New technologies and understanding can provide a solution to even the biggest challenges we face, but this can only happen through the coordinated and interdisciplinary action of experts from different fields and with different knowledge bases. However, there are barriers that slow down this process: the academic world and even more so the industrial world, where scientists operate and develop their solutions, are full of hindrances to the free flow of knowledge, the full sharing of methods and innovations, and a higher coordination. Borders between countries, borders between disciplines, sectorialization, patents, and social and religious boundaries are in the way.
As a Universal Scientific Education and Research Network, our organization offers itself as a growing example of a radically different approach: science without borders. We are committed to create opportunities for interdisciplinary, international research, and to promote interdisciplinary education throughout the world. As the next section of this document shows, USERN is aggregating thousands of scientists from 22 different scientific disciplines into collaborative projects, publications, workshops, and schools. We also encourage innovative developments by young researchers, offering a yearly prize to the five best achievements with the USERN prize. We finally look into science policy, to identify how to foster and support a freer flow of information and a better identification of scientific value.
Our means are limited, as we are a fully non-profit organization: we live exclusively by the sponsorship and donation by individuals and institutions that deeply share our values. Yet we are confident that our goals can also be shared by the scientific community worldwide, so we optimistically look forward to growing and improving our action, toward the positive goals we have set for ourselves.
If you, too, share our views of a more united world, where knowledge access is ubiquitous and where scientific research and education are among the defining goals of our society, join us! It is free and it takes a minute, and it may open prospects of a more impactful action toward a better future.
Tommaso Dorigo, USERN President
May 9, 2023