Public governance

Symposium on New Science-Based Tools for Anticipating and Responding to Global Crises (Paris, 18 April 2012)


Symposium to celebrate the
20th anniversary of the OECD Global Science Forum (GSF)
and the 100th Session of the OECD Committee for Science and Technological Policy (CSTP)

Paris, 18 April 2012


Background | Objectives | Draft Agenda 
Registration and Contact | Practical Information

Summary Record



Our world is currently passing through a series of crises and challenges of natural and man-made origin. The crises are complex in nature, global in scale, were largely unanticipated, and originated from a series of cascading, inter-related events. Governments are struggling to mitigate their effects, and are searching for the best recovery policies. 


Science and technology are among the tools that governments have at their disposal, and these have been exploited extensively in the past. The premise behind this symposium is that new scientific methodologies and modes of science/policy interactions will soon be available to policy-makers based on the ability of researchers to analyse, understand, and make reliable forecasts about important policy-relevant phenomena that had, until now, been seen as lying outside the scope of useful scientific analysis. 


Typically, these are systems and networks consisting of vast numbers of individual elements that interact in complicated ways such as entire biological ecosystems, continent-scale systems combining geological, oceanographic, biological and human elements, disease pandemics, financial markets, energy generation and distribution networks, as well as societal phenomena such as mass urbanisation and migration. In recent years, scientists have developed a new set of concepts, theories, models, and computational tools for dealing with complex systems. 


The potential role of S&T in addressing crises has already been the focus of previous OECD activities:


 In September 2009, the Global Science Forum released a report entitled “Applications of Complexity Science For Public Policy: New Tools for Finding Unanticipated Consequences and Unrealized Opportunities” which addressed the essential question of
How can the insights and methods of complexity science be applied to assist policymakers as they tackle difficult problems in policy areas such as health, environmental protection, economics, energy security, or public safety?”


In parallel, the CSTP undertook a series of activities to examine the science, technology and innovation contributions to addressing global challenges. The Committee is continuing to identify new tools and methodologies for a better understanding the socio-economic impact of S&T policies, which may be of particular interest to analyse, for instance, economic or disaster recovery policies.

Of similar relevance is the recent report “Future Global Shocks: Improving Risk Govenance” produced by the International Futures Programme, which analyses the risks present in large-scale system interdependencies and the propagation of risks across global systems.


Building on this previous work, this symposium will provide a venue to examine both the current capability -and the future potential of the new scientific discoveries for generating information and advice for policy makers as they seek to deal with natural and man-made crises of many different kinds.



This symposium brought together delegates of both the Global Science Forum and the CSTP along with natural and social scientists, economists, representatives of financial, energy, health, environmental and disaster-reduction agencies and institutions, plus officials of relevant governmental bodies, to explore the prospects of providing innovative, actionable information and advice to policymakers and other stakeholders, based on the results of contemporary research on complex dynamic systems.


The expected outcomes included:

  • A better understanding and communication of the potential of novel science-based modeling for anticipating and responding to complex global crises;
  • Insights on policy-related mechanisms for evaluating and using these tools;
  • Leads for future work related to the integration of such tools into new policy areas


Draft Agenda

(PDF in English)


Session 1: Introduction to the Symposium. A brief history of GSF and CSTP

  • Andrew Wyckoff, Director of the Science, Technology and Industry Directorate of the OECD
  • Peter Tindemans, former Chairman of the Megascience Forum


Session 2: Understanding/anticipating/modelling of crises


Carlo Jaeger, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research,  Head of Research Domain Transdisciplinary Concepts & Method



Frédéric Sgard, OECD Global Science Forum Secretariat



  • Akinori Yonezawa, Deputy-Director of AICS (RIKEN Advance Institute for Computational Science)
  • Arnaud Banos, Director, Institut des Systèmes Complexes – Paris Île-de-France
  • Rainer Sachs, Head of Group Accumulation and Emerging Risks, Munich Re
  • Alan Kirman, Director of Studies, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHES)

Questions for discussion:

  • What are recent crises teaching us regarding current models and their limits?
  • Which important phenomena could now be most advantageously analyzed, modelled, and explained using advanced scientific methods?
  • Which new scientific concepts and techniques offer the greatest promise for generating useful policy-relevant outcomes (e.g. emergence, network analysis, agent-based models, qualitative vs. quantitative modelling)?
  • What is the level of maturity of basic research and applied modelling in the field? What reliable, actionable results are already available, and when can more results be expected?
  • How could access by researchers to relevant economic and social data be assured?


Session 3: Responding to crises, and optimising the science-policy dialogue



Yuichiro Anzai, President of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)



Ken Guy, Head of the Science and Technology Policy Division, OECD Secretariat


Respondents :

  • Julia Lane, Senior Managing Economist, American Institutes for Research
  • Zoran Stančič, Deputy-Director General, Information Society and Media Directorate General, European Commission
  • Anne-Marie Lansdown, Head, Science and Infrastructure Division, Dept of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research & Tertiary Education, Australia
  • Tom Downing, Affiliated Senior Research Fellow at Stockholm Environment Institute Oxford, President and CEO of the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership

Questions for discussion:

  • What types of results (e.g. probabilistic predictions) can be expected from scientific analyses, and how could they be communicated to potential users?
  • How can complex science-based modelling products be communicated to policymakers (role of intermediary bodies/individuals) and then translated into action (particularly when having multi-national impact)?
  • How can science-derived policy actions on complex socio-economic systems be assessed?
  • What is the influence of public opinion and trust, and of social phenomena in general, in the generation and diffusion of crises?

Session 4: Conclusions: future directions for researchers, policymakers and OECD



Yuko Harayama, Deputy-Director, OECD Science, Technology and Industry Directorate

  • Hiroshi Nagano, Chairman of the Global Science Forum
  • Luis Sanz-Menéndez, Chairman of the Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy


Questions for discussion:

  • What are the desirable components of research programmes to advance the field?
  • What could GSF, CSTP (and OECD in general) undertake as future activities in this area?



Registration and Contact

Participation is by invitation only. For further information, please contact



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