Science and Technology

“Science stands on its own, but it has the power of transforming society”

These were the words by the Portuguese Prime Minister during the inaugural session of “Ciência'19”, whose commissioner is the Técnico professor Zita Martins.

The National Science Summit’19 – “Ciência’19” celebrates the 100th anniversary of Arthur Eddington’s expedition to Sao Tome and Principe that proved Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union, the 50th anniversary of moon landing, the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation Journey of Fernão de Magalhães and the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table of Elements. “Ciência’19” will include 6 plenary sessions, 121 parallel sessions, 637 oral communications, as well as an exhibition area that will allow visitors to see 50 experiments and 580 research posters.

This Monday, 8th July, the Commissioner of “Ciência’19”, professor Zita Martins, opened the inaugural session and presented the 3-day programme. Gender balance and the involvement of young people into science were the commissioner’s major concerns while designing the programme. “I am happy to say that 60% of the guest speakers in plenary sessions are women”, she said. The organisation of the event invited young people to join the parallel sessions and invited two young women to participate in the plenary session entitled “Digital transformation, artificial intelligence and digital skills”. 4000 people are expected to attend this year’s edition. Professor Zita Martins shares “I hope that these 3 days will serve to promote interaction between researchers, companies and the general public”.

Professor Helena Pereira, president of Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), talked about some changes that occurred at FCT in the last year and highlighted the R&D Units Evaluation and the scientific employment. About the last one, she shared “we will introduce a tripartite responsibility: the funding agency (FCT), the researchers (agents) and the institutions where researchers work”.

According to professor Alexandre Quintanilha, president of the Parliamentary Commission for Education and Science, “personal, social, environmental and political decisions must be based on knowledge”. “Ciência’19 is an opportunity for researchers to explain the significance of their work to their colleagues and to civil society”, he added. “This summit also provides new collaboration opportunities and perhaps the creation of new fields of knowledge”. Professor Alexandre Quintanilha ended his speech quoting Sir Francis Bacon: “Knowledge itself is power.”

The United Kingdom is the guest country of “Ciência’19”. The UK’s Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation wasn’t able to attend the event but reiterated Portugal’s role as UK strategic partner in research area. The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Portugal, Chris Sainty, shared “I hope that the cooperation between our two countries will continue to deepen in the next years”.

“Thinking about science is thinking about the present moment and about the future generations, and this is what the government has been doing over the last few years”, said the Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor. “Portugal currently holds a different position in Europe. We want to continue strengthening the conditions to further increase scientific knowledge”, added the Minister.

The Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa closed the session. “Science stands on its own, but it has the power of transforming society”, he said. António Costa stressed the importance of science for the Portuguese companies and international business, “it is therefore very important that we continue investing in science”.

The inaugural session was also attended by two scientists: Pedro Gil Ferreira, Oxford University, United Kingdom, and Giovanna Tinetti, University College London, United Kingdom.

The National Science Summit’19 will run until Wednesday, 10th July. Técnico will be represented by the alumni Cristina Fonseca, co-founder of Talkdesk and João Graça, co-founder of Unbabel, professor Miguel Correia, professor Isabel Trancoso, and the Técnico students Filipe Almeida, Tomás Silva and Sara Fernandes, members of JUNITEC and SitPoint project.