Thiruvananthapuram | Globally-renowned spiritual leader and humanitarian Mata Amritanandamayi Devi has urged the scientific community to approach their research with a balanced mix of awareness and compassion, stressing the importance technological advancement as a means to uplift the poor.
Addressing a United Nations international conference attended by 700-plus delegates, Ammas keynote focused on the vitality of reducing a continuing divide between science and spirituality, according to a press release here today.
This has been detrimental to societys sustainable growth, the 62-year-old Hugging Saint from India told the gathering at the event co-hosted by the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and Amrita University which she heads as the Chancellor.
The Wednesday conference in New York also marked a milestone for her 2003-founded institution as Amrita became the first varsity to co-host a new series of initiatives launched by UNAI in its efforts to create an opportunity for leading international universities to present groundbreaking developments with scope for helping the UN to meet its proposed Sustainable Development Goals,the release claimed.
Amma as the Kerala-born icon is fondly called world-wide said science and spirituality should have gone hand in hand as two main branches of knowledge.
Instead, they largely remain divided with their practitioners being either labelled as modern scientists or representatives of religious faiths, she noted, ahead of Amrita Universitys presentation of cutting-edge research.
Today, universities and their researchers are ranked mainly based on the amount of funding they receive or the number of papers they publish and their intellectual caliber, Amma said.
Along with this, we should take into consideration how much we have been able to use their research to serve the lowest and most vulnerable strata of society.
The conference featured presentations by top academic institutions besides Amrita such as Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, EPFL, Monash, Twente and the National University of Singapore on specific areas of cutting-edge technology and innovation, including nanoscience and molecular medicine, biotechnology, wireless networking and haptics.
The 2010-initiated UNAI, whose newly-formed group under the acronym START (Skills and Technology Accelerating Rapid Transformation), also inaugurated an online portal created by Amrita University to foster further discussion and collaboration among researchers worldwide on technology for global sustainable development.
UNAI Chief Ramu Damodaran shared the global agencys deep appreciation of the partnership with Amrita Universityparticularly Amritas construction of the portal. The online endeavour, he said, would facilitate collaboration between scholars and institutions in their common support to the UNs cause.
Amma has spoken of the distinction between education for living and education for life, he noted. It is our hope that, working together, the global academic community and the United Nations, can fuse these concepts into a single dynamic source of passion and creative energy.
Led by Mr Damodaran, the delegates from 93 institutions then signed a group statement confirming their positive intention to co-operate on all aspects of information and research data sharing for humanitarian benefit around the world in line with the UN-mooted Sustainable Development Goals.
Concurrent with the statements ambition, each of the presentation panels announced pledges of specific collaborative efforts between their respective institutions: Dr Maneesha V. Ramesh, Director of the Amrita Centre for Wireless Networks & Applications, and Dr Maarten van Steen, Scientific Director of CTIT, University of Twente, pledged to complete and have running the first landslide early warning and monitoring system in the heights of the Himalayas.
Dr Bipin Nair, who is Amrita Universitys Dean of Biotechnology, and Dr Tai-Ping Fan, who heads Angiogenesis & Chinese Medicine Laboratory at Cambridge, pledged to develop and evaluate within three years the efficacy and safety of plant-derived botanical drugs or plant-inspired pharmaceuticals for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Dr Shantikumar Nair, Dean of Research and Director of Nanoscience and Molecular Medicine, pledged with Prof Seeram Ramakrishna, Director, Centre for Nano-fibres and Nanotechnology, National University of Singapore, and Prof Claude C.A. Bernard, Deputy Director, Monash Immunology and Stem-Cell Laboratories, to create a Nanotechnology Exchange Platform that can be used to access products, IP and knowledge.
Prof B Bhavani, Director of Amritas AMMACHI Labs, and Prof J Kenneth Salisbury, Jr, Research Professor, Department of Computer Science and Surgery, Stanford, vouched for the creation a low-cost, HMD, and tablet-based training simulation course that would enable people, especially women, to acquire Crane-operation skills.
Prof Bhavani, along with Dr Silvia Hostetller, UNESCO Chair in Technologies for Development, EPFL, pledged further collaboration with their work in rural India as a part of Amritas Live-in-Labs.
Amrita University, which is headquartered at Ettimadai near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, has campuses in four other south Indian cities as well: Bangalore, Mysore and Kochi besides Kollam (Amritapuri) from where Amma runs her 1981-founded ashram which has chapters across continents.
Earlier, United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark said sustainable development is at the very heart of the UNs new global development agenda this year. These challenges call for big partnerships to tackle them head-on, she said in her opening remarks. The communities of endeavour represented here today must be part of these partnerships.