Professor Mohamed Hassan - ISP Board Member

Meet ISP board member Professor Mohamed Hassan, who is visiting Sweden and Gotland for a few days to participate as a panelist in the ISP seminar during the Almedalen week.

Besides being an ISP board member and the former executive director of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), Prof Hassan is currently the chairman of the Council of the United Nations University and co-chair of IAP- the global network of science academies. When in Sudan he also serves as an advisor to a private university in Khartoum. Hassan has been on the ISP board for seven years.

- The ISP model intrigued me more than any other model that supports science in developing countries, largely because of its focus on basic sciences and in particular the physical sciences. ISP is the only important organization I know of, besides the ICTP (International Centre for Theoretical Physics) that has an explicit mandate to promote physical sciences in low-income countries. In addition, the ISP model is quite unique as it provides long term support to the  building of research capacity and excellence in basic sciences in poor countries. And thirdly, the model includes participation and collaboration with the Swedish academic community in building the capacity of research groups in developing countries.

He points out that many organizations don’t see the value in supporting the basic sciences, that it is often seen as a luxury. Prof Hassan himself has a background in mathematics, and he obtained his doctorate degree in theoretical plasma physics University of Oxford.

- These organizations don’t understand that you need to have a good foundation in the basic sciences to enable you to do good applied sciences. There is a saying that there can be no applied sciences if you have no science to apply.

Regarding the future Prof Hassan thinks ISP should continue to address three interrelated challenges.

- First there is the challenge to build the capacity of research groups in low-income countries so that they can be integrated with the international scientific community as valuable partners. I think ISP has succeeded driving this effort and has accomplished a lot with its approach to capacity building during the past 50 years. Secondly we have the challenge to provide long term financial support and sustainability to the research groups. Here I would also like to recommend entering into a serious discussion with the governments of the supported countries to see how they could contribute to the long term financial needs of the research groups and in that way make the research groups more sustainable. And thirdly the challenge to obtain funds from organizations and countries other than Sweden. Here I see ISP in the coming years trying very hard, using its impressive and successful capacity building model, to substantially expand its portfolio of donors to generate more income to support basic sciences in low-income countries.

July 2014