Make science, not war: let science triumph

Opinion piece VUB rector Jan Danckaert on Valentine's Day

As a scientist, on this Valentine’s Day, I call on fellow scientists around the world: let us join forces and use science as a powerful tool for peace and cooperation. The challenges are too big and the problems too deep-rooted for quick fixes. Debates too often come from the belief that we are in the right, wary of and often even opposed to scientific facts. Disinformation, fake news, censorship and propaganda create unrest. Disagreements are magnified. If you’re not for, you’re against. This is how nuance dies. And the truth. There is less and less room for genuine, constructive debate in a world that loses a little more of its resilience each time.

That is why it is crucial that scientists not only focus on their individual fields of research, but actively contribute to promoting mutual understanding and trust between countries and cultures. As scientists, we have a responsibility to use our knowledge and expertise for the common good of humanity. We cannot remain on the sidelines. We must make our voices heard more clearly in the public debate than ever before.

Science has always flourished in an atmosphere of openness and collaboration, and now more than ever it is time to accelerate this. Scientific collaboration allows us to transcend differences in social discourse by critically listening to the views of others, who may see the same discourse differently. It teaches us to step outside our bubble and take a critical stance on our own views.

Science, science diplomacy, open science and interuniversity networks must be the drivers of a new Renaissance, a momentum that Europe – and, by extension, the world – needs if reason is to prevail.

Science offers us a structured approach to discovering the truth, to distinguishing fact from fiction. Science diplomacy, through international scientific exchange, joint research projects and cross-border cooperation, can play a crucial role in bridging differences of politics, culture and ideology. Indeed, scientific cooperation has the potential to promote dialogue between nations and contribute to finding common solutions to global challenges.

The recent past has showed how science and science diplomacy can contribute to cross-border solutions and solidarity, through joint research and collaboration between scientists from different countries to tackle the pandemic. In this and other times of crisis, scientists have worked together across borders to understand the spread of disease, develop vaccines and strengthen healthcare systems. This form of international cooperation demonstrates that science is a powerful tool for promoting peace and stability in the world.

Let us strive together for a future where science is used not only to explore the universe, but also to unite humanity and create a world free of conflict and division. Through collaboration, not only in the lab but also on the world stage, we are creating a world where science can triumph over war.

Jan Danckaert, rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Jan Danckaert, rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Nathalie Vlaemynck
Nathalie Vlaemynck TIJDELIJK AFWEZIG - Woordvoerder en algemeen perscontact
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The World Needs You

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig – The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People, because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership, VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré, the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ‘urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.


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