Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences

27 09 2021

On 21 September, the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences held a general assembly of its members, the main highlight of which was the celebration of its 80th anniversary. It was an extraordinary meeting, because in addition to the members of the Academy and the young scientists, its attendees included public officials, who gave congratulatory addresses, and the representatives of the countries of the newly-inaugurated foreign members of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences – H.E. Brian Olley, Ambassador of the United Kingdom, and Urszula Grebieniow, Counsellor of the Embassy of Poland.

The event opened with the cellist Elena Daunytė performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Prelude’ from Cello Suite No.1 in G major.

Prof. Jūras Banys, President of the Academy, welcomed the audience, noting that it was finally possible to meet after an enforced break of almost two years. He invited a minute’s silence in honour of Leonardas Kairiūkštis, Jurgis Brėdikis, Pranas Sadauskas, and Jonas Mockus, the members of the Academy who died over the summer.

After the agenda of the meeting was approved, Eugenijus Jovaiša, an academician and a member of the Seimas Committee for Education and Science, was invited to the podium. He gave a speech on the anniversary of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. Prof. Jovaiša said that the idea of the academy of sciences dates back to ancient Greece where free thinkers came together in Plato’s academy. Similar ideas began to circulate in Lithuania in the eighteenth century when Martynas Počobutas, the rector of Vilnius University, an astronomer, and a mathematician, proposed the establishment of an academy of sciences to Stanislaw Augustus Poniatowski, King of the Republic of the Two Nations. However, this idea was not implemented. The first Statute of an Academy of Sciences, drafted in 1928, also remained in a drawer. The Academy was established on 16 January 1941, when Lithuanian had already been occupied by the Soviets. Over the years, the Academy of Sciences has been changing. Noting the fundamental changes in the structure and activities of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, the speaker presented the thoughts of some academicians. Antanas Buračas said that the separation of research institutes from the Academy was a progressive decision after the restoration of independence. Valdemaras Razumas, a former president of the Academy, stressed that in order to keep up with global trends, the decision was made in 2011 to abolish the hierarchy within the Academy, i.e., to abolish the division of the academicians into full, corresponding, and expert members and to introduce the categories of the full member and the emeritus member. Another innovation mentioned by President Jūras Banys was the establishment of the Young Academy of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences during his term of office. It encourages and strengthens communication of researchers of different generations and the exchange of experience. At the end of the presentation, Adolfas Laimutis Telksnys painted a vision of the future of society when people would increasingly interact with machines and humanoid robots. We need to prepare for this now and the role of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences is immense.

On behalf of Gitanas Nausėda, President of the Republic of Lithuania, Jolanta Karpavičienė, Chief Adviser to the President, congratulated the Academy and its members on the occasion of its 80th anniversary. The congratulatory message stressed that this jubilee was important for Lithuania as a whole: we can be proud of the discoveries made by the country’s scientists and effective dissemination of scientific knowledge; also, that the representation of Lithuanian science abroad mobilises and strengthens the country’s intellectual capacity. The key to progress and societal well-being lies in science. She concluded by noting that for these reasons, research funding had to increase and wished the Academy to continue bringing together different generations of the scientific community, because scientia est potentia.

In her remote greeting, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas, recalled the difficult history of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. The Academy was founded at the time when Lithuania had already lost its freedom. Nonetheless, the ideas of scientists and other members of society matured even under those conditions, until eventually the ideas of national revival grew into the Sąjūdis. She thanked the audience for building the country’s well-being and wished that progressive ideas spread widely throughout the world.

Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas, remotely greeting the general assembly

Ingrida Šimonytė, Prime Minister, remotely congratulated the institution that, in her words, was mature. She said she believed that we should rely on scientific reasoning, always and in all areas. She wished the Academy a creative flight and energy to move forward.

Remote greeting by Ingrida Šimonytė, Prime Minister

Jurgita Šiugždinienė, Minister of Education, Science, and Sport, who attended the meeting, spoke about the Academy’s highly important mission of bringing scientists together. She voiced her belief that the awarding of fellowship certificates to young researchers symbolised an important process of the transfer of knowledge. Unfortunately, there is still too little science-based guidance in public policy. Popularising science is a relevant area, as is improving the efficiency of research results. For its part, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport intends to further strengthen the implementation of research policy and the competitiveness of Lithuanian scientists in the international arena, and all this needs the expertise and support of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. May lux et veritas accompany the scientists in their endeavours.

After the congratulatory messages, the commemorative medals of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences were awarded to academicians Kęstutis Kilkus, Algirdas Juozas Motuzas, and Dr Bronius Jaskelevičius, scientific secretary of the Division of Technical Sciences. On the occasion of significant jubilees, citations of the Presidium of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences were awarded to Remigijus Žaliūnas (60), Jonas Mažeika (60), and Juozas Vidas Gražulevičius (70).

President Jūras Banys awarded certificates of the Young Scientist Scholarship to fifteen young PhDs, the winners of the Young Scientist competition. This was followed by the inauguration of the new foreign members of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and their inaugural lectures. Richard Guy Compton, an electrochemist from Oxford University (UK), gave the remote inaugural lecture ‘Chemical Sensors for the Oceans’. He and his colleagues are developing chemical sensors to monitor ocean ecosystems. The main objective is to continuously analyse the effect of climate change and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on phytoplankton. These photosynthetic organisms are referred to as beacons of climate change. As well as generating half of the planet’s oxygen in the atmosphere, they provide ‘edible energy’ for marine life and effectively fix carbon dioxide in their shells.

Jan Jankowski, another new foreign member of the Academy, is an animal scientist from the Republic of Poland. He spoke on ‘Nanoparticles of Cu, Mn and Zn in Turkey Nutrition’. Scientists wanted to see if, without harming the birds, it would be possible to reduce the amount of these trace elements in feed so that it would be less polluting. The results show that feed additive manufacturers are indeed recommending the use of too many micronutrients.

The computer scientist Janusz Kacprzyk, another new foreign member from the Republic of Poland, delivered the lecture ‘Solving Complex Decision Problems: Decision Aid, Decision Support Systems or Recommenders?’ He talked about the ways of improving decision-making by bringing together expert human and artificial intelligence systems. Computers are more effective in some areas, but humans are better at solving complex problems. Interactive quasi-automatic decision-making systems can therefore assist in making better decisions in today’s highly complex world.

Robert J. Shiller, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and a foreign member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences from the USA, gave a remote inaugural lecture on ‘The Economic Impact of Contagious Narratives’. Due to advances in information technology, all kinds of ideas, including stories or narratives, are going viral around the world. It is particularly dangerous that people tend to openly manipulate information and mislead others in order to benefit themselves. Processes become so significant that they have a considerable impact on the developments in economy. For this reason, today’s economists should be aware of the significance of such narratives, be able to identify them and assess their impact. New methods of research on financial markets are needed, and economists should be interested in fields such as anthropology, sociology, journalism, folklore, textual analysis, and the like. All that will form the basis of the new – narrative – economics.

Robert J. Shiller, a foreign member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, giving a remote inaugural lecture

The inaugural lectures were followed by awarding the badge of the member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences to the full member Romas Baronas, who was elected in June. At the end of the ceremonial part of the event, the cellist Elena Daunytė performed Giovanni Sollima’s ‘Lamentatio’ for cello.

The agenda of the meeting continued with the nomination of candidates for the president of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. Jūras Banys, the current president of the Academy, was nominated unanimously. The election of the president of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences was scheduled for 26 October 2021.

Dr Rolandas Maskoliūnas, chief specialist for public relations
Translated by Diana Barnard