Mohammed Abdul Basith

Organizing Secretary, AGM 2019, NYAB and Professor, Department of Physics, BUET

Youth are the most potential driving force of any nation for social change as well as economic development and technological innovation. Any idea of national development of any country is just a myth without the active and meaningful participation of youth and utilization of their talents, dynamism, imagination, ideas and energies. A revolution can be brought in the world of science if the potential of young researchers can be exploited to the fullest. Nowadays, performing individual research projects cannot be the sole purpose of a scientist. In order to facilitate the society with the blessings of scientific inventions, there has to be more interaction and collaboration between the stakeholders, scientists, policymakers, industry leaders, NGOs and the mass people. Young scientists can stimulate this interaction by bringing in fresh ideas and introducing cutting-edge approach for solving the problems. While the established senior scientists obtain most of the resources available for scientific research, young inventors rarely attain societal recognition for their efforts.1,2

Therefore, to recognize, boost, and explore the merit of young researchers, a dynamic movement has emerged in the past decade or more to establish independent Young Academies (YAs). The first YA was the Die Junge Akademie of Germany established in 2000. Following the footsteps of this and other YAS in the Netherlands, Sudan etc. there soon emerged a global network for young researchers named the Global Young Academy (GYA).

The idea of GYA emanated from the discussions of some bright research scholars of the world, convened by the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) at the Annual Meeting of New Champions of the World Economic Forum (“Summer Davos” meetings) in 2008 and 2009. Founded in February 2010 in Berlin, Germany with the support from the IAP2, the academy received startup funding from the Volkswagen Foundation with the help of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities BBAW and the German Young Academy. The founding co-chairs of GYA were Professor Gregory Weiss, a chemist from the University of California, Irvine, USA, and Professor Nitsara Karoonuthaisiri from the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Thailand. GYA was hosted by the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (BBAW) in Berlin from 2011 to 2016. In 2017, the GYA office moved to Halle (Saale), where it is now hosted by the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. In 2014, GYA reached its full capacity with 200 members and as of 2018, it counted 216 alumni in addition to its 200 members; together representing 83 countries.

The Global Young Academy gives a voice to young scientists around the world. To realise its vision, it develops, connects, and mobilises young talent from six continents. Moreover, it empowers young researchers to lead international, interdisciplinary, and inter-generational dialogue with a view to making an evidence-based decision-making global platform. GYA thus provides a rallying point for outstanding young scientists from around the world to come together to address topics of global importance. 3

In order to achieve these goals, the GYA has provided support for the development and coordination of National Young Academies (NYAs) around the world. For this purpose, the GYA has developed a NYA blueprint and provided advice and letters of support. Till now, it has assisted to establish NYAs in around 30+ countries. Several economically less indigent African countries like Ethiopia, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda have already established their NYAs and co-organized regular regional and global meetings of national young academies. In the South Asia region Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan founded : Sri Lankan Academy of Young Scientists (SLAYS), Indian National Young Academy of Science (INYAS) and National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS) Pakistan. Their own NYAs are providing their youths a platform to collaborate and exchange their fruitful innovative ideas by organizing events on a regular basis.

It is a matter of great concern for us that even in early 2019 there is no such platform for our young scholars in Bangladesh although GYA has had several members from Bangladesh of whom quite a few have contributed actively to the academy. Bangladesh had four members selected in the very first cohort of GYA. However, only Professor M Manjurul Karim, Department of Microbiology, University of Dhaka remained active. He was joined in the following year by Professor Abdullah Shams Bin Tariq, Department of Physics, University of Rajshahi. Prof Karim from the very beginning was involved in NYA related movement and took a part in formulating the NYA blueprint produced by GYA. He, together with Prof Tariq took the initiative for preparing the first proposal for establishing an NYA in Bangladesh and submitted to the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences (BAS) in 2012. When Dr Monir Uddin Ahmed and Dr Nova Ahmed became GYA members, the efforts got further impetus.

Despite their wholehearted efforts it took quite a few years to convince those concerned to form such an organization in Bangladesh. BAS had been organizing Young Scientist Congresses and had a Young Affiliate programme. Eventually, BAS endorsed the idea of the formation of the National Young Academy of Bangladesh (NYAB) and the BAS council formed a committee for the formation of a young academy in Bangladesh. Professor M Shamsher Ali, Professor Naiyyum Chowdhury, Professor KM Sultanul Aziz and Professor Mesbahuddin Ahmed were members of that committee.

On 6 July 2017, an Ad-hoc committee for NYAB was formed at a joint meeting of this committee and the proponents of a young academy, all of whom being Global Young Academy (GYA) members and alumni, at the BAS office in the capital. Professor KMS Aziz, immediate past secretary of BAS, chaired the meeting (sincere gratitude to Professor Aziz). It was decided that this Ad-hoc committee will initiate the membership drive and thereafter form a full-fledged executive committee to run NYAB. Professor M Manjurul Karim was nominated as convener and Professor Abdullah Shams Bin Tariq as member secretary of the Ad-hoc committee. The two other members of the committee are Dr. Monir Uddin Ahmed, founder, Scientific Bangladesh and Dr. Nova Ahmed, North South University.

This Ad-hoc committee worked voluntarily for the formation of the NYAB and selection of its first cohort of members. Members of this Ad-hoc committee automatically became founding members of the NYAB in order to carry forward and transfer the concept and spirit behind the formation of NYAB. A group of 16 further members was selected through a highly competitive process run by the Ad-hoc committee making a total of 20 founding members of NYAB. As a founding member, I got the opportunity to design a dynamic website of NYAB along with organizing AGM 2019 as an organizing secretary. Doing this, I was delighted to see the dedication, passion and vision of the Ad-hoc committee members. I believe that under their leadership, the founding members are ready to accomplish the mission of NYAB, enabling young scientists and academics of Bangladesh to achieve their professional excellence through learning and collaboration and to inspire, promote, and champion scientific research for societal development.

  1. Holden, Science, vol. 319, pp. 391, 2008.
  2. Brück, C. Beaudry, H. Hilgenkamp, N. Karoonuthaisiri, H. Salah-Eldin Mohamed, G. A. Weiss , Science, vol. 328, pp. 17, 2010.

Muhammad Manjurul Karim

Convener, Ad-hoc Committee, NYAB and Professor, Department of Microbiology, University of Dhaka

Science and technology could play effective roles in addressing the societal challenges we face today, from reducing hunger and poverty, finding a cure for disease such as dengue, to protecting the environment, and so on. Young scientists (YS) are passionate to enhance the contribution that they can make to science and that science can make to society. The passion eventually drove to the formation of Global Young Academy in 2010 following a meeting of YS participating in the World Economic Forum ‘s Summer Davos program 2008 in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China. The contribution of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (BBAW) for hosting its foundation is gratefully acknowledged; the platform that eventually united the YS around the world with a view to linking their contribution to global solutions.

The establishment of GYA has inspired and provided mentorship to establish the formation of National Young Academies worldwide. This goes a long way to create and strengthen the network at local, national and international levels so that the YS can contribute meaningfully and collectively. This has allowed them a ‘seat at the table’ in policy forums. The existing national young National Young Academies academies around the world have gained experience with interactions in national science policy forums (e.g. with government, funding agencies, university representations). This has created a win-win symbiotic relationship that always works in nature. The National Young Academy of Bangladesh 2 (NYAB) here in Bangladesh is born, ordered 41st in the Globe, and 4th in South Asia to meet the objectives the nation can aspire from us.

Why did we need an Academy?

YS critically depend on continuous investment in their skills and on support for their often-fragile career trajectories. We hence require early independence; encouragement and freedom to establish our own research networks; fair, independent and merit-based evaluation, promotion, grant-awarding processes and refereeing processes in publishing; encouragement to pursue alternative pathways for disseminating science and technology; as well as mentoring and life-long learning. We call for policies to enable family-work balance, to promote equity, and to eliminate discrimination on any basis. We also ask for a fair distribution of administrative and teaching tasks; effective support in implementing administrative and managerial roles; and the chance to represent our views as young scientists within scientific institutions. We note the positive effects resulting by the establishment of ‘Young Academies of Sciences’, in which YS can conduct research across disciplines, organize outreach activities and exchange their views on science policy issues, both among each other and with senior academicians, and both on a national and international level.

How can an Academy be of help for the YS?

The Academy is aimed to develop skills and attitude in early and mid-career scientists who will lead in creating an enabling research environment for sustainable development. The following issues are the ways and means by which a young scientist could benefit himself/herself.

  • Early-career researchers, who return their home countries after being graduated with PhD from overseas, need ample attention to develop their career as a researcher from the respective institutions, government and NGOs. The Academy provides a platform to brainstorm and cross-fertilize ideas of global and national importance. This is for dissipating youthful energy, which is at its peak within the age bracket, irrespective of color, race, gender and location to live in.
  • Offering seed funds to successful proposals will make them inclined to deliver their best. To be eligible for these awards, they need to be trained to understand the national, regional and global needs. The Academy will play a mentor role providing vibrant and sound discussions from interdisciplinary experts. Upon successful demonstration of their outputs, their endeavor needs to be further inspired by proper funding.
  • The ability to build up a research cohort across and beyond the country will be considered as their added eligibility.
  • Likewise, a national directory will be created where the successful researcher will be identified as experts and thereby will gain attention to become further funded from other potential sources.
  • This will pave the way to create network across the boundary, thereby connecting them with foreign as well as non-resident Bangladeshi (NRB) researchers.

Definitely, this will have an implication to reverse brain-drain, and achieve brain-gain from the networks. The nation overall is benefitted from this brain-circulation.

The nomenclature

The name NYAB 2 is self-explanatory: it is NATIONAL in nature, composed of YOUNG minds with people embracing all disciplines from humanities to natural sciences, creating an ACADEMY of outstanding academicians to build a better BANGLADESH using Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for sustainable development.

Our strength

  • The membership comprises leading young scientists, researchers and scholars from around the country, all dedicated to using their research to benefit the society.
  • By bringing together outstanding scientists from many different disciplines, NYAB catalyze the formation of multidisciplinary scientific collaborations that generate innovative new ideas.
  • The tenure of the membership is limited to 5 years to prevent the organization from becoming an old academy. We wish to encourage and educate the next generation of YS throughout their career, passing knowledge and experience on to our successors in science.
  • We particularly recognize the need to develop and deliver a robust science culture at all levels of society; communicating science in the education system and to the general public is something in which YS are particularly well placed and willing to contribute.
  • We aim to interact more with other stakeholders, improving the dissemination of our findings and encouraging others to assist us in this regard.

How could the nation be benefited?

All scientists, whether academic, government, or industry-based, must actively engage with civil society and decision-makers to convey the urgency of the global challenges that lie before us. One of the important aims of the NYAB is to provide a ‘seat in the table’ for YS in national policy forums, where they can able to contribute meaningfully. Further avenues of contribution could be as follows:

  • Participation in a Young Academy strengthens a nation’s scientific enterprise by training its next generation of leaders. The work exposes them to important policy issues while building networks of trusted personal relationships that can bridge disciplines for a lifetime.
  • By providing a shortcut for outstanding young scientists to exert national leadership, NYAB can be highly effective in recruiting a nation’s most talented students to scientific careers—a critical issue for the future of every nation.
  • Through its connection to the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences (BAS), the NYAB can exert national leadership in advancing science through projects that the YS themselves determine and thereby invigorate the senior academy in critical policy-related work.
  • NYAB is strategically well positioned to raise awareness and understanding of the science issues by communicating them to civil society, policymakers, the private sector and wider public through workshops, lectures, and outreach programs. By engaging with schools and universities, they can reach out to the next generation of future scientists.
  • The Young Academy can assist the media in building science literacy as well as confidence in science by contributing to science articles in the popular media and online.

Making a better world needs better science — we young academics are ready to contribute our share.


Abdullah Shams Bin Tariq

Member Secretary, Ad-hoc Committee, NYAB and Professor, Department of Physics, University of Rajshahi

When I became a member of the Global Young Academy (GYA), it was still early days and the founders were still around. I got to learn a few things from them about their vision of how a Young Academy (YA) should be.

When one thinks of being selected for a fellowship or membership of an academy, the first reaction is similar to that of winning an award. However, here they were clear. GYA was not claiming to be an academy of the 200 best scientists of the world. Rather it was one where 200 of the best from different countries would come together to do things to improve our world.

In the application form, apart from describing their achievements, applicants were asked to write answers to a few questions: l . Why do you want to join NYAB? 2. Do you have any initiative for the advancement of science/research and/or young and/or future scientists/researchers in Bangladesh? Briefly describe, if yes. 3. Demonstrate your engagement for the advancement of science/research and/or young and/or future scientists/researcher in Bangladesh? 4. In what way would you like to contribute to NYAB, if you are selected as a member? The answers were supposed to be short essays demonstrating the vision and commitment of the applicants.

So, the first lesson was, this is not for those excellent scientists or scholars who are only interested in their own research. There is no denying of their excellence. But if one does not have a commitment to go beyond that, and the only interest is in another line on one’s CV, YAS are not for that person or YAS are to encourage him or her to look beyond. On the other hand, to have any credibility or impact, excellence of the members is a precondition.

At a YA, we learn that we need to communicate not only with our peers, but also with society, policy-makers, media, industry, funders and other stakeholders. To appreciate that we cannot live in isolation and we need to acquire new skills to go beyond is an awakening in itself.

YAS also try to focus on diversity and this makes us appreciate what others have to offer. Traditionally, people from the hard sciences tend to underestimate the value of social scientists, or academics in humanities, business or law. Scientists in academia with degrees from leading universities and publications in leading journals, fail to recognise scientists in industry, or policy bodies where PhDs or publications may not be required, but there are other norms of excellence. Here we try to start to appreciate their qualities. In this way, even when we say science, we refer to any evidence-based discipline.

The opportunity to interact with a linguist, or a lawyer, or a policy scientist, or with one in industry immediately impresses us of the unique qualities that they have, that we lack as scientists working in hard sciences in academia. The NYAB has avoided keeping ‘science’ in its name in order to attract bright academics even beyond the hard sciences. Here we are the first in the sub-continent to do so.

Early in an organisation, it is not easy to achieve perfect diversity as distribution of information is skewed by biases and limitations in the current membership. Nevertheless, even in the first call for application and the selection, we have tried our very best to keep diversity in discipline, gender, employment, geographical spread etc.

We are pleased to note, that despite imposing no quotas and going by merit, even among the first 16 members selected beyond the ad hoc members, we have one from industry, one from a research organisation and one who is a freelancer. Discipline-wise, according to how the applicants identified themselves, we have 6 from Life and Earth Sciences, 4 from Physical, Mathematical and Chemical Sciences, 3 from Medical and Health Sciences, 2 from Social Sciences, Economics and Law and 1 from Other. We have not done that well on gender with only 2 females selected. Among the 16, 8 are from Dhaka, 7 are from outside Dhaka (Rajshahi, Chittagong, Sylhet and Patuakhali) and I living abroad. We will need to reach our excellent Agricultural scientists in Mymensingh. But, still I am quite pleased with the diversity we have achieved in our first attempt.

So, coming back to what we should be doing, I will go back to a quote that stills lives strong in the GYA. Gregory Weiss, one of the Founding Co-Chairs, used to say at the beginning of AGMs, “Sleep is for the plane ride home!” And this was not a joke! GYAAGMs are so intense with activity and ideas, plans, work to do, documents to finish that you really find yourself working through the nights.

It is true, if the selection is good, the selected members will be hyper-busy persons on any given day. But, again, if you want to get something done, it is not those who have idle time to spare who will do it, but those who are dedicated enough to find time within their busy schedules might be able to do it.

Again, though YAS aim to be a voice ofyoung scientists or early career researchers (ECRs) and there will be work trying to improve the situation for this group, but this is far from a trade union fighting for benefits. Rather, as mentioned rightly by Professor Manjurul Karim in his article earlier in this book, we look forward to have a seat at the table in policy forums and elsewhere.

As a YA, we would like to prepare ourselves to be providers of evidence-based policy recommendations, be it in matters of environment or education. Such advice must be based solely on scientific data and not biased by any fear or favour.

Despite having strong connections, YAS try to be as independent as possible. This very strong sense of independence and integrity is key to achieving anything meaningful and I noticed this in the founders of GYA. The manner in which they stepped away from leadership and membership, the manner in which the selection process is detached even from the Executive Committee, the manner in which they insisted that no GYA funds be used for alumni were all demonstrations of selfless dedication and integrity.

Another unique feature of YAs is that membership is for a short period of 4-5 years. So, there is no point of clinging to power. We have limited time to leave our legacy for those to come. So, once again, we are not here to take pride in our membership, but to make the most of a great opportunity to serve.

As a student of physics it is only natural that my interest in the history of human creativity concerns mainly physical sciences and the ground breaking deeds of the pioneers of this field.

To begin with, let me start with the adventure of two wide-eyed students in Lieden, Holland – Uhlenbeck, 24, and Goudsmit, 23, who were students of Professor Paul Ehrenfest in 1925. Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit were working on anomalous Zeeman effect (AZE), a problem greatly disturbing the physicists during the early years of the development of quantum mechanical atomic model. I will not overburden you with the details of AZE; it is the splitting of certain atomic spectral lines in the presence of magnetic field. The intrinsic spin of electrons gives rise to this AZE but the concept of electronic spin, the fourth quantum number specifying an electronic state in an atom, was completely unknown to most and in certain cases unacceptable, even distasteful (e.g., to Niels Bohr, the father of quantum mechanical atom model) to the leading physicists of that particular time. Against this backdrop, Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit proposed the spin 1/2 character of electron to Ehrenfest first. Ehrenfest was 46 at that time and widely recognized as one of the leading theoretical physicists in Holland. Ehrenfest’s response was that their proposal either was nonsense or something very important, and that they should write up a brief report, and that all three would then consult Professor Hendrik Lorentz for his opinion. Professor Lorentz was the preeminent theoretical physicist in the world, universally respected for his great scientific achievements and profound knowledge and wisdom. Indeed Einstein himself regarded Lorentz as the greatest living physicist of his time. Lorentz listened to Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit and told them he would think things over and get back to them. As promised Lorentz did reply at length in a handwritten manuscript in which he raised a number of serious objections to Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit’s proposal, all based firmly on his profound knowledge of classical electrodynamics. Discouraged by Lorentz’s comments, Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit told Ehrenfest that they wished to withdraw their article. However, Ehrenfest had already sent it to the publisher. He consoled Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit. Ehrenfest pointed out that since Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit are young enough, they will be forgiven for their stupidity in case their proposal turns out to be complete nonsense. The short article appeared in Naturwissenschaften in November 1925, and an even shorter version, in English, was published in Nature in February 1926. These two papers rank among the most influential work in quantum mechanics.

I personally feel this story particularly inspiring. Young researchers can afford certain ‘stupidity’ which becomes more and more difficult as one grows older. Youth is bold, youth is adventurous. A wide eyed adventurer makes frequent mistakes but also can think out of the box and can challenge widely perceived wisdom. These are the basic ingredients of creativity. The history of science is so full of such audacity of the youth.

Founders of quantum mechanics, Pauli and Heisenberg did their ground breaking work before turning to thirties. Newton’s annus mirabilis came in 1666 when he was just 23. Einstein proposed his special theory of relativity in 1905 (On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies) when he was merely 26. In the same year he published On a 1–leuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light (giving the concept of energy quantum a firm foundation) and On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquid, as Required by the Molecular Kinetic Theory of Heat (providing with empirical evidence in support of the atomic theory). At 26, in three master strokes, Einstein changed the face of physics forever. Niels Bohr, one of the three founding fathers of quantum mechanics (Max Planck was the first and, in my opinion, Einstein was the second) was 26 when he proposed the Bohr atomic model. I should not leave out the relatively older genius — Max Planck. Planck initiated the quantum revolution in 1901 when he was 42. Schrodinger was in his thirties when he formulated the wave mechanical version of the quantum mechanics. The exciting Josephson effect was discovered by B. D. Josephson while he was a graduate student in Cambridge. The list is long and glittered with the creativity and accomplishment of the young ones.

Writing this short article, I recall a paper published in the PNAS (Age dynamics in scientific creativity) in 2011. It turns out that the average age of the greatest scientific accomplishments of Nobel laureates in physics is little over 37 years! Such is the power of youth.

I can feel this article is becoming a bit skewed. Age too has its advantages. Experience is invaluable. Quantum mechanics developed through the able guidance of Niels Bohr, the father figure, while the creative impetus came from the young ones — Heisenberg, Pauli, Schrodinger to state a few. Theoretical physics in Russia flourished enormously under the supervision of Landau. This wonderful blend of youth and experience makes science, and research for that matter, healthy, constructive and rewarding.

Unfortunately, this environment of promoting creativity is lacking in this country. Young researchers are rarely heard. Scientific mentoring is largely absent. There is strong hierarchy which unfortunately is often not based on scientific merit and ability. The openness and transparency are mostly absent. All these factors have inhibited free flow and appreciation of idea and meaningful collaborative research. Under this prevailing situation, the news of formation of National Young Academy of Bangladesh (NYAB) came as a breath of fresh year. There is so much to be done, so much to be accomplished and who else can change the scenario other than passionate researchers with youth and age on their side?

Let the adventure begin.