The 6 th Gago Conference on European Science Policy
[...]. Considerable time should be devoted to setting up a dialogue in each member State on the issue of human resources for science, engineering and technology, helping policy-makers understand what is required, and building bridges between national and European actors. Dialogue between industrial and academic organizations in Europe should also be pursued.
José Mariano Gago In "Europe needs more scientists", European Commission, Brussels, 2004
23 - 24 October 2023
Digital Global Observatories
How Advanced Computing can help shaping our common future in times of increasing uncertainty and unsettled lives?
6th Gago Conference on European Science Policy
A joint organization of Ciencia Viva and Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), with the special patronnage of The Spannish Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2023 and the European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel (tbc).0
Barcelona , 23-24 October, 2023
Recent unexpected threats to our common safety and public goods, including public health, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the increasing activity of individual digital terrorism and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have shown that our societies are not as safe as we thought. In association with the climate disaster we all are facing, demographic forecasts and the tensions resulting from increasing water scarcity affecting the world's most vulnerable communities, we are facing unprecedented threats that should foster a clear call for action. Deep reflection on these issues must lead us to safer, cleaner, more resilient, cooperative societies. Using novel forms of digital observation and governance, including the digital twins of our communities and landscapes, must necessarily consider human agency, be centered on people and be based on changing collective behaviours.
But the question is how far advanced computing, together with design and use of digital observatories, can help shape our common future in times of increasing uncertainty and unsettled lives. This question has framed the 6th Gago Conference on European Science Policy, at the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, under the scope of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2023, and in a way to foster the impact of the Europe-Latin America Summit of 2023. ...
The analysis clearly shows that every forecast for world societies in the coming decades will be strongly affected by the emerging trends on the increasing digitalization of our communities and economies 1 . This includes the increasing world relevance of the Global South and the critically relevant role of Europe-Latin America cooperation, as well as that with Africa.
Although the advantages and disadvantages of digital observation and governance based on centralized and decentralized digital networks are still subject to many uncertainties requiring comprehensive technical and policy debates, the use of advanced computing and decentralization and blockchain control is only partially immune to biases. Blockchain algorithms incentivize and ultimately give preference to participants that have access to more nodes, therefore, to the most active ones. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help by modelling the information flows and learning different participants' critical patterns of use. Such practices can then provide input to set the parameters that govern the behaviour of blockchain algorithms.
However, the massified use of AI-enabled innovations is also not free of additional questions because the "power it has to make us act in the ways it predicts reduces our agency over the future". In predicting our behaviour, AI systems can end up changing it. Consequently, collective human wisdom needs to be strengthened so that emerging regulatory issues for an increasing digital age should help promote critical approaches to AI, with clear accountability and clarity about boundaries and purpose, as well as responsibility. 3 It requires rethinking of the techno-centric narrative of progress, embracing and harnessing uncertainty, as well as abandoning the fantasy of control over nature and the illusion of techno-centric dominance of AI-enabled innovations.
The issue is clear in that it creates tensions between developers/promoters and human-led policy making, which need to be informed by negotiations of trade-offs. Above all, it requires a transdisciplinary approach to collective behaviours and consideration of "human agency" across economics, philosophy, law, science and technology studies, history and sociology to engage with all the necessary ingredients of an emerging decentralized digital age and AI-enabled innovations.
In other words and following Helga Novotny (2021), digital observation and governance should be oriented to promote "digital humanism" and guarantee a transdisciplinary approach to collective behaviours and consideration of "human agency".
The rationale for this discussion also relies on the fact that the climate crisis is probably the biggest challenge humanity is facing. Its effects in the field of health led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare that "the climate crisis threatens to annihilate the progress of the last 50 years in global health and poverty reduction. Further, it widened the inequalities in health that exist between and within different populations". It recognized that "climate change is the greatest global threat to human health. The Paris Agreement is perhaps the most impactful health agreement of the 21st century" (WHO, 2021); however, there is no sustainable development without guaranteeing the rights of all people. Future actions must take into account the connection between the "ecological footprint" indicators and those associated with the "social footprint" (i.e., poverty, inequality, and violation of basic rights).
The latter means changing and developing green/blue economies and healthier societies. It means changing our daily routines and work habits, as well as our cities, transport, agriculture, and industry, in a way achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere and the carbon removed from it. This balance – or net zero – will happen when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed.
For this change to happen and be facilitated by digital observation and governance, we need to understand better "human agency" and our emerging collective behaviours to guarantee the sustainability of the populations, simultaneously with their right to develop. And this requires the governance of complex and massive amounts of data and their synergies (i.e., "data ecologies"), including new satellite-based data, together with the necessary knowledge and innovation to improve land use management. Large amounts of data require new technological tools such as cloud computing, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning for handling, processing, understanding and exploitation, together with new in situ information systems and the knowledge and innovation needed to improve land use management and the development of sustainable and healthy territories. We argue that all this requires a revised "digital humanism" and a rethinking of techno-centric narratives of progress, embracing and harnessing uncertainty and abandoning the fantasy of control over nature and the illusion of techno-centric dominance of digital systems and AI-enable innovations.
Understanding knowledge as our common public good will allow citizens to be an integral and key stakeholders in future developments. The latter will help policymakers better understand how decentralized digital networks and AI can be used to develop further to make public services more effective by delivering seamless services, cutting down digital bureaucracy and giving citizens back their most precious asset, namely their time. In addition, it will drive new policy options to enhance the governance and regulation of decentralized digital networks, including those in the public sector, ensuring high standards of conduct across all areas of public sector practice, promoting public sector effectiveness and delivering better service to its users.
These challenges and associated risks will possibly be mitigated in implementations using practices, methods and tools generated by a new trend in research and innovation: that of "Responsible AI", underscoring principles such as fairness, transparency and explainability, human-centeredness, privacy and security.
Considering this context, the Conference will focus on the following issues:
Challenges for green and efficient advanced computing;
Digital humanism; ethical and responsible computing; responsible AI;
Digital observatories, digital twins and skill development: users, developers and promoters;
Transdisciplinary approaches to collective behaviors: governance of data ecologies;
Potential markets for digital twins: public and semi-public goods versus proprietary knowledge;
Emerging developments and challenges in digital observatories and advanced computing:
Disease observatories: advanced computing and digital twins of public health, the concept of "One Health";
Urban observatories: digital twins of complex and vulnerable urban contexts, including the most vulnerable in the Global South;
Forest observatories: digital twins of forest and remote areas, oriented to sustainable land use management, with an emphasis in Africa and Latin America, including in Amazonia and the other tropical biomes;
Ocean/water observatories: digital twins of the ocean and rivers, oriented to sustainable blue economies, including in the Atlantic; North-South/South-North cooperation.
Application areas and policy implications:
- Josep M. Martorell , Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, Spain
- Teresa Riera Madurell , Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, former member of the European Parliament, Spain
- Manuel Heitor , Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research (IN+), Instituto Superior Tecnico, University of Lisbon, former Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Portugal
- Rosalia Vargas , Ciencia Viva Agency, Portugal
- Julio Celis , EACS - European Academy of Cancer Sciences, former Director of the Danish Cancer, Denmark
- Alfonso Valencia , Barcelona Super Computing Centre, Spain.
- Paco Doblas , Barcelona Super Computing Centre, Spain.
- Jose Maria Cela , Barcelona Super Computing Centre, Spain.
- Ulises Cortes , Barcelona Super Computing Centre, Spain.
- Fabrizio Gagliardi , Barcelona Super Computing Center, Spain.
- Angel Font , CEO, La Caixa Foundation Barcelona, Spain; President, European Foundation Centre
The conference will gather high-level speakers, including:
- Policy makers in European member states;
- European Commission and European Parliament representatives;
- Leaders and other representatives from research and business institutions,;
- Representatives of young researchers´ associations;
- Key stakeholders of the European Research Area;
Monday October 23th
Place: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB). Montalegre 5.
15.45 Visit the exhibition “ AI: More than Human ”
16:45 Coffee break
17:00 Session: “Accountable, Responsible, Transparent ArtificiaI Intelligence for the ODS”
19:30 Informal dinner
Tuesday, 24 October
Place: Palacio de Pedralbes (5-minute walking from the BSC headquarters).
9:15 Opening Session
Emerging developments and challenges in Digital Observatories and Advanced Computing
10:30 Presentation of the Barcelona Manifesto: “Fostering Responsible Digital Observatories for Europe and the Global South”.
10:30 Session 1: Disease observatories: data hubs and digital twins towards “One Heatlh”
12:00 Coffee break
12:15 Session 2: Urban Observatories: digital twins of complex and vulnerable urban contexts, including the most vulnerable in the Global South.
13:45 Lunch break
14:45 Session 3: Environmental Observatories. Digital twins for blue and green sustainability
15:15 Session 4: Understanding the advanced computing infrastructure and skills required to foster digital Observatories and the building up and usage of adequate digital twins
18:00 Visit to Marenostrum 5 and BSC headquarters.
19:00 Informal Dinner and Gago Awards on EU Science Policy Ceremony
GAGO AWARDS in European Science Policy
Palau Reial de Pedralbes (1st day)
Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Montalegre 5.(2nd day)