President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters,
Jan Fridtjof Bernt, inauguration ceremony for Kavli Institutes
in Beijing, China, May 26th 2007
Your Excellencies, distinguished Colleagues and Friends
It is a great pleasure for me to be together with you to day at this important event, and to bring the warmest greetings and congratulations from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters to the Chinese Academy of Science on the occasion of the opening of the Kavli institute for Theoretical Physics China at the Chinese Academy.
These are great days for the Scientific Community, not only on the force of a new important research institute being opened, and one more being in the pipeline, but also because this is another important step in the development of an international network of academic enterprises linked to Fred Kavli and his foundation.
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has the fortune of being a partner in this network. The Norwegian Academy was established in 1851 and is an independent organisation of a select group of scientists who work to improve the quality and status of science in present day society.
Through a partnership agreement signed the third of May 2005 the Kavli Foundation, the Norwegian Government and the Norwegian Academy established three Kavli Prizes, each of one million US dollars, to be awarded on a bi-annual basis. The prizes are awarded in disciplines which are likely to be three of the most important fields of research in the 21st century; astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. The recipients of the prizes will be selected by three distinguished panels of leading international scientists in each field, appointed by the Norwegian Academy on the basis of recommendations from the most outstanding scientific academies internationally, among them the Chinese Academy of Science. I am most happy to report that Executive Vice President and Director of the Division of Chemistry at the Chinese Academy, Dr. Bai Chunli, has accepted an appointment as a member of the prize committee responsible for recommending the winner in the category of nanoscience.
Other academies nominating members of the prize committees are the French Academy of Sciences, the German Max Planck Sosiety, the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK Royal Society, and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The Norwegian Academy appoints the chairs of the prize committees.
The Kavli Prize in Astrophysics is awarded for outstanding achievements in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the origin, evolution and properties of the universe, including fields of astrology as well as astrophysics and astronomy
The Kavli Prize in Nanoscience is awarded for outstanding achievement in the science and application of the unique physical, chemical and biological properties of studies that are manifest in the nanometre scale.
The Kavli Prize in Neuroscience is awarded for outstanding achievement advancing our knowledge and understanding of the brain and the nervous system.
The first winners of the Kavli Prize will be announced in June 2008, and the prizes will be presented in the autumn the same year in an award ceremony held in Fred Kavli’s native country, Norway, with the president of the Norwegian Academy presiding.
In connection with the prize awards The Norwegian Academy will arrange international symposia on select subjects related to the fields of the prize-winners.
The main purpose of these prizes is manifold. They are intended not only to recognize, honour and award outstanding and highly creative scientists. They also aim to promote public understanding of scientists and their work, and to foster international cooperation among scientists. This multiplicity of purpose was stressed by Fred Kavli at the signing ceremony establishing the prizes, where he stated.
“The prizes are intended to reward scientists who often make significant contributions to society, yet spend their entire careers in obscurity. So I’m hopeful the prizes will help bring them – and science itself – a little bit of recognition. But we’re also hopeful this will raise people’s awareness, and give them a richer appreciation of the benefits of basic science in their own lives.”
This is a philosophy shared by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, expressed also in connection with the Abel prize in mathematics, awarded each year by the Academy, and also another prize – the Holberg prize in humanities, social sciences, law and theology, which is presented each year by the University of Bergen.
On this background it is a great pleasure for me to offer my congratulations on this event, marking the establishment of a new and important institution within the international scientific network bearing Fred Kavli’s name.
Norway and China have a long and glorious tradition of friendship and cooperation in science as well as in trade and politics. It is my hope and belief that this new Kavli Institute together with the Kavli prizes and the activities connected to them will be the basis for increased useful and meaningful cooperation and exchange of ideas and knowledge between the scientific communities of the two countries.