The House That Abdus Salam Built…The ICTP in Trieste

IAEA: The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics stems the brain drain of physicists from developing nations at a time of new scientific challenges.


In the early 1960s, both the decision-makers and the public in the industrialized world, shared a faith in the usefulness and importance of fundamental science. There was unfaltering trust in the scientific community. Although the world was ideologically split into two camps, science was recognized as an integral part of human culture and development. Science, however, did not fare as well in most developing countries, some of which had just gained their independence. The number of scientists active in research in such countries was small. As scientists emigrated to more developed nations, the resulting brain drain delivered serious blows to the scientific communities of those researchers, leaving deep scars in the intellectual fabric of their countries.

Abdus Salam, a Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani physicist, recognized that improving science locally would not be enough to stem the flight of fledgling scientists from developing countries. International mechanisms would be needed to allow scientists—especially those returning home after training abroad—to stay connected with the world, to refresh their knowledge periodically, and to engage in international research collaborations. The time was right for the conception of an international centre for theoretical physics. And Trieste, Italy, was the right place, located in the West, but at the doorstep to the Eastern bloc.

Not Just Another Institute—A Home Established in 1964 under the aegis of the IAEA, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) was intended to be not just another international research institute. The intention was a model organization designed to promote training and research in the physical and mathematical sciences in developing countries; serve as a forum for scientists from all over the world; and operate as a first-class scientific institution.

All three goals reflect the desire of its founding director, Abdus Salam, to confront the issues of isolation and brain drain that have continually dimmed the prospects for scientific excellence across the developing world.

Today ICTP each year hosts some 6000 scientists in its facilities in Trieste, Italy, while maintaining strong and enduring links with scientific communities in more than 170 countries. Closer to home, it has forged cooperative relationship with many Italian scientific institutions. Through its efforts, the Centre has built a worldwide family of loyal alumni—tens of thousands of associates, lecturers, and students, many of whom are now internationally recognized scientists, university leaders, research-council presidents, and leading statesmen in their own countries.

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6 replies

  1. A great home made by Abdus Salam, which is progressing in tremendous ways 50 years after.

    It will be interesting to compare the growth pattern of ICTP:

    “Advanced countries, such as France, great Britain, the soviet union, and the united states, were cool to the idea at first, but they could not resist the enthusiastic support from developing countries that rallied behind salam.” (Ideals and Realities pg. 446.) [In the article by Nigel Calder 1967]

    So what we need today?

    In a Quran and Science conference held in Toronto on April 12, 2014, Dr. Altaf Qadeer presented an idea for our current needs. Today we also need the dimension of effective “science education” to bring new minds on the path of science and technology and make them eventually science champions by the grace of Allah. Science education (which has many related concepts and fields) along with interacting with higher level scientists can inspire our next generations to develop higher level interest in science. Many children with great minds go to some other fields for various reasons. By making a stronger connection between science, education and other fields we can promote science in all countries (especially for children, teachers, researchers and others) with the aspect of local languages.

    What we need for our current needs is: ICSTE (International Centre for Science and Technology Education).

    It is in fact a need to fulfill in relation to our current challenges. It is a dimension which can really bring countries closer in science education cooperation and promote mutual understanding. It is a fascinating idea that can bring children, teachers and researchers closer from all over the world, with many languages working together. This center can provide learning resources, and research expertise, & global learning opportunities for all countries (regardless of their religion, race or culture).

    Two quotes from Dr. Altaf Qadeer in that conference were:

    “Nobel laureate of today was an elementary level student one day.”

    “Imagination & knowledge can help to find the unknown with the help of known and it can even reshape our frames of creativity to land on new moons.”

    Dr. Altaf Qadeer also gave an idea for simplified form of research journals for children, (like we have children’s Britannica) simple form of higher level literature, using easy language, pictures, cartoons, simple statistics. This could be an interesting way to bring researchers, educators and learners in close interaction. A paradigm we need for better results (by the grace of Allah).

  2. I am glad Brother Abdul Aleem has highlighted this topic. It is a way to reach insights for current needs. This move has opened door to know the ideas like the one presented at the Quran and Science conference. The idea for starting ICSTE (International Centre for Science and Technology Education) is an important aspect for this age and our times. Indeed the way science is taught, science curriculum is designed and the interaction of all stakeholders (even for younger children) is a call of time. In an open letter by a Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty (please check the link):
    http://download.ei-ie.org/Docs/WebDepot/PeterDohertyNobelLetter_EN_final.pdf

    has put emphasis on starting the path of higher level science success from early years of learning. This letter was also shared at the Quran and Science Conference in Toronto. Providing resources from early age is very important. This is an area where we can collaborate by putting together our resources and conduct extended research to see more success in the next decades. Some developed countries have taken this path to some level, yet the need for all countries, all children, all teachers, all academic avenues, social and linguistic dimensions is still looking for a ground-breaking idea like, ICSTE.
    It is hoped a collective approach of minds will make it work.
    This will be a way to send more scientists from all over the world (especially the developing world) to ICTP one day.
    This might be a way to reach out to those facing challenges in their countries.
    Think how we can have the first step in this direction. Yes, and pray!

  3. From the Nobel work of Salam to our current needs.

    Science Education for children can lead to higher level science personalities!

    Wonderful ideas given.

    After reading to the posting and the two comments made, it can be easily concluded that there is some clear possibility to proceed on the way to give science strength dimension through “effective science education” a role which can be well-achieved by the fascinating idea of International Centre for Science and Technology Education or ICSTE.

    Involving children from their younger years is a key-point. It is also clearly evident that the focus on this point is loosing in many countries (both developing and developed countries). Even the science curriculum for children of some countries and places needs positive changes. The need for a global level forum with inclusive approach and involving all languages and cultures is really an idea that catches attention and merits further consideration.

    Amazing way to continue the dreams of big ones! A dream that can bring many realities with happy surprises (Inshaallah).

    Many innocent people have desire and ambition but they need a place for developing ideas, enjoy real guidance by various high level professionals and achieve education which can make them future Abdus Salam.

    Many children schools are not taking the path which is mentioned in the letter of Peter Doherty, who is also a Nobel Prize winner (in the previous comment). The sincere efforts of ICSTE can do what some organizations with huge budget are not able to do for obvious reasons. Examples from history will confirm this aspect. I am sure our experts can join hands to make it work. In the last comment it was asked how we can take first step in this direction. I wonder if we call an international conference on this idea, perhaps we will be able to make a point and then move from there on.

  4. with the great level of collaborative approach, the idea presented for starting ICSTE is truly a way to go. MashaAllah. Without delay some steps have to be taken to make sure, a great idea is not just waiting to be tried. A positive step can make a big difference in the long run. The Quran and Science conference opened ways to have this idea for implementation. Now there are many global connection methods to speed up our efforts.

  5. All previous comments gracefully show the great work of Dr. Abdus Salam, Dr. Peter Doherty and Dr. Altaf Qadeer. The arguments and the extended discssion has good level of explanation and vision. Why sometime even awesome ideas don’t see the light of the day, while some ideas get quick actions? The world needs more willingness to look for the inclusive education and socio-economic growth of all with long term goals. Ideas like ICSTE, needs some type of patronage. How such ideas can actually make history again….. if we have again some form of support and patronage. If the decision makers can foresee the future of their next generations, economic growth through inventions, and disocvering the great hidden potnetial of all countries,there is a possibility such ideas will get to the level of reality. Also it is important to compare some alarming signs in the reports about where the world of education is going, what is the interest level of children in science all over the world. There are always hearts and minds who see things with a vision !

  6. If we look at the world of education activities these days, the idea of Dr. Altaf Qadeer to create an International Centre for Science and Technology Education (ICSTE) gives a cutting edge potential. As it will have inclusive opportuinities, all languages needed, interdisciplinary fields, and a vision of science for all from their ealry years of learning. It is a way to discover future of science with a global mind power. We can hope some one will work on this brilliant idea. Also thanks to Dr. Abdus Salam for giving a unique vision of science. May Allah help to make this idea a reality. Amin.

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