The OECD Global Science Forum (formerly the Megascience Forum) is a venue for meetings of senior science policy officials of OECD countries. Its goal is to identify and maximise opportunities for international co-operation in basic scientific research. The Forum establishes special-purpose working groups and workshops to perform technical analyses, and to develop findings and recommendations for actions by governments. These groups bring together government officials, scientific experts, and representatives of international organisations. Specifically, the Forum serves its Members in the following ways:
- Exploring opportunities for new or enhanced international co-operation in selected sc1ientific areas. The Global Science Forum contributes to the identification and exploitation of opportunities for strengthening the global research infrastructure (e.g.facilities, instruments, databases, research networks and programmes) in response to new developments in science and technology, and to changing societal needs. Activities of this kind are expected to lead to better international co-ordination, sharing and rationalisation of existing or new resources.
- Defining international frameworks for vital national or regional science policy decisions. Governments can strengthen their own decision-making processes by using the Forum to become informed about the priorities, plans and funding decisions of other countries, prior to making their own national or regional plans. Such information can be useful for identifying, at an early stage, attractive opportunities and partnerships for international co-operation. Forum activities promote a dialogue between scientists and policymakers, to supplement the consultations that take place on a national or regional basis.
- Addressing the scientific dimensions of issues of global concern . Scientific research can provide essential information and advice to decision-makers on a wide range of critical global-scale issues. International consultations are needed for strengthening this type of research, and for promoting the use of scientific information in the development of the best policy options.
The Global Science Forum holds two general meetings each year and authorises specialised subsidiary activities as needed. The Forum produces findings and recommendations for action at senior administrative or operational levels. Recommendations to Science and Technology Ministers may also be made. Mechanisms are optimised for each topic under consideration, to produce policy-relevant findings, options, and recommendations for actions by governments:
- Working groups can be established, based on the Megascience Forum model. Such working groups, which have a well-defined scope and duration, bring together senior programme officials to exchange information about national priorities and plans, and to explore opportunities for co-operation and co-ordination on new or existing scientific programmes and projects.
- Single-event workshops can be organised to bring together government officials and scientific experts with the goal of exploring a selected issue in detail, and of formulating conclusions and recommendations for actions by governments and other relevant parties. Conducting a workshop may be appropriate before a working group activity is authorised.
- Surveys and studies can be conducted to gather and analyse information, if there is strong interest by a significant number of Forum delegations. Typically, these activities will serve to inform debate by the Forum itself. The responsibility for initiating and carrying out such work will normally rest with the governments that request it; the secretariat will provide analytical support upon request.
Subsidiary activities of the Global Science Forum are proposed by Member delegations, and participants are appointed by governments. Potential involvement of non-OECD countries, international bodies, and other OECD committees must be considered to maximise opportunities for productive interactions, and to avoid unnecessary duplication. The Forum does not duplicate or interfere with the work of any other international organisation or process, nor does it consider matters that can be dealt with on a bilateral or trilateral basis. In general, purely scientific matters are not to be debated by the Forum or its subsidiary bodies. If unresolved scientific questions emerge during the course of a Forum activity, an appropriate recommendation for action can be made to a scientific body. If opportunities for co-operation are identified, interested governments will decide whether they wish to participate in discussions leading to the negotiation and implementation of international projects. The responsibility for negotiating final agreement and administering the co-operation will reside with the participating governments. The Forum itself will not play an operational role in funding or managing any scientific project or facility.