Conference on Innovation, Sustainability, and Regeneration
Call for Papers/Extended Abstracts



Call for Papers/Extended Abstracts | Submission deadline: 17 July 2023

The INSURE.hub, a partnership between Católica Porto Business School, Faculty of Biotechnology and Planetiers New Generation, is organizing the third Innovation, Sustainability and Regeneration international conference, to be held on UCP Porto campus on November 16-17, 2023.

The aim of the conference is to bring together students, researchers, and professionals of the industry to discuss topics related to innovation, sustainability, and regeneration. We intend to prepare a program that aims to be at the forefront in the international landscape, having the contribution of professionals and leaders that have been directly involved in disruptive, circular, sustainable and/or regenerative innovation processes applied in practice.


Manuela Veloso (Head of J.P. Morgan AI Research & Herbert A. Simon University Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University)


Authors are requested to electronically submit a full paper or an extended abstract. Papers/extended abstracts must be in English and clearly define the objectives, methodology, findings and significance of the investigation or study, and should clearly identify the names and affiliation of all authors. To submit the paper/extended abstract in pdf use the email:, with the subject “3rd INSURE Conference: Abstract Submission”.

The deadline for submission is July 17, 2023. The authors of accepted papers will be notified by September 17, 2023.

SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE: The members of the conference Scientific Committee are: Alexandra Leitão (Católica Porto Business School); António Vasconcelos (Planetiers New Generation); Célia Manaia (Faculty of Biotechnology); Cristina Sá (School of Artes); João Cortez (Faculty of Biotechnology); João Pinto (Católica Porto Business School); Luís Rochartre (Planetiers New Generation); Manuela Pintado (Faculty of Biotechnology); Patrícia Moreira (School of Artes); Patrícia Oliveira-Silva (Faculty of Education and Psychology); Raquel Carvalho (Faculty of Law – Porto School); Ricardo Ribeiro (Católica Porto Business School).

CONFERENCE CO-CHAIRS: António Vasconcelos (Planetiers New Generation); João Pinto (Católica Porto Business School); Manuela Pintado (Faculty of Biotechnology).

CONFERENCE STRUCTURE: papers/extended abstracts will be selected for presentations in plenary sessions over the day on November 16. A set of additional papers/extended abstracts will be selected for presentation in a Poster format. On November 17, before the keynote speech, participants are invited to attend case studies presentations by INSURE’s business partners.

TOPICS: The conference is calling for high-quality and original research or case studies on topics including (but not limited to):

  • Innovation and business transformation;
  • Disruptive innovation;
  • Circular economy;
  • Leadership & governance for sustainability;
  • Sustainable business strategy;
  • Social entrepreneurship and responsible business;
  • Sustainability literacy and education;
  • Sustainable investment and financing;
  • Challenges owing to the impact of climate change;
  • Climate risk management;
  • Laws and regulations related to sustainability.

BEST PRESENTATION AWARD: the best presentation (taking as criteria the scientific quality, innovation, and performance) will be awarded with a prize of 1,000 euros.



Rectors of URL, UCP, UC Chile, and PUC Rio met
at the Universia Summit


Seven hundred rectors from 14 countries worldwide met in Valencia, Spain, for the 5th International Rectors’ Meeting organized by Universia. Under the “University and Society” title, the meeting focused on analyzing the challenges faced by higher education. Specifically, there was a debate on the great challenge for universities to lead and collaborate in the technological and social transformations that must facilitate social progress. 

During the meeting, the Rectors of Universitat Ramon Llull, Prof. Josep. A Rom, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Prof. Isabel Capeloa Gil, UC Chile, Prof. Ignacio Sánchez Díaz and PUC Rio, Prof. Anderson Antonio Pedroso, S.J. had the opportunity to exchange views on SACRU. The four rectors took advantage of the meeting to share the good results of the Alliance and reaffirm the great work being done to foster global cooperation among research-intensive Catholic universities to advance knowledge and higher education for the common good.


The voices of SACRU students on climate change



The Alliance has collected multidisciplinary testimonies of five students from Boston College, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Sophia University, and the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. Students addressed the situation in their countries and proposed solutions to deal with climate change.

Click on the image or here to watch the video

Reflections for the
International Day of Multilateralism

The Global Day of Diplomacy for Peace is celebrated by the United Nations every 24th April. Experts from the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities have provided insights into the value of international cooperation

In 2018, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution 73/127, which officially instituted the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. This recurrence aims to celebrate the founding principles of multilateralism, such as consultation, inclusion, solidarity, and their role in promoting the United Nations’ three pillars of peace, sustainable development, and human rights.

Inspired by its mission of global cooperation for the Common Good, the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) has collected insights from its experts to focus multilateralism’s relevance for addressing global and multifaceted challenges. SACRU is a network composed of eight Catholic Universities from four different continents. The contributions represent the personal views of individual academics and are not intended as the official positions of SACRU and its partner Universities.

Universitat Ramon Llull (Spain)

 Written by Oscar Mateos, delegate of the Rector of the URL for the promotion of the 2030 Agenda

 We need a strong civil society to foster
a democratic and effective multilateralism

At a time when our global village needs more than ever global institutions and mechanisms capable of dealing with problems of an increasingly transnational nature, multilateralism has entered a critical phase. The new wave of “nativism” advocating the idea of “my country first” questions the need for such mechanisms. Moreover, the increasingly securitarian context, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has returned to a logic of rearmament and militarisation that compromises the other logic of peacebuilding or diplomacy as the main responses.

However, two facts highlight the need for effective and inclusive multilateralism as never before. On the one hand, the problems that most condition and compromise our lives, in any part of the planet, are problems “that do not understand passports”, as the late former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan once reminded us. Only a well-articulated multilateralism, therefore, will be able to deal effectively with the effects of the climate crisis, the effects of future pandemics, or the revived challenges posed by the nuclear threat. On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that our multilateral institutions, which are the legacy of the Second World War, must be more inclusive, participatory and democratic, proportionally incorporating the voice of a global South that is on the rise, or of civil society organisations at the international level, in a world that no longer belongs to states alone.

Precisely, the active role of a critical global citizenry is key to being able to promote a new paradigm of a more inclusive multilateralism that puts the voice of people and societies at the centre. Universities have much to say and contribute to the construction of this critical global citizenship that aspires to transform our world and which is also key to promoting the longed-for multilateralism.

 Boston College (United States of America)

 Written by David Deese, Department of Political Science

 US Diplomacy and multilateralism toward China and East Asia

Does the “hyper vigilance”, if not hostility, of many US politicians and thought leaders toward China serve to advance US interests and values, or global public goods such as security, financial stability, prosperity, ecological balance, and human rights?  Are US, Pacific Basin, and global security and cooperation improved by ever more consistent exaggeration of Chinese capabilities, intentions, and “threats” by US leaders and media?  Likewise, are human rights in China, China’s provocative actions toward smaller east Asian states, or North Korea’s nuclear and conventional weapons provocations effectively addressed by assuming an ever more cold war US posture toward China in our diplomacy?  Even among the public intellectual community, a typical recent article was entitled “China’s Hidden Tech Revolution: How Beijing Threatens US Dominance” (Wang 2023).

Indeed, it can be argued that the US and China have several crucial areas of overlapping, if not common, fundamental interests—from secure sea lines of communication to east Asia from the Middle East, US, and Latin America, to a stable Pacific Basin, balancing Russian assertiveness and restraining its provocative actions, stabilizing the international financial system, minimizing destabilizing actions by North Korea, supporting critical manufacturing and rare earth supply chains, mitigating the climate crisis, reducing global poverty levels, commercializing new technologies, attracting talented Chinese students to US universities (and specifically in natural  science and engineering) from the bachelor to doctorate levels, and holding sports and cultural exchanges.

Instead of framing China’s rapid progress in many key areas as a threat, it might be helpful to  understood it as a useful challenge, if not an opportunity, for the US to reconsider and renovate some of its own practices and policies.  Instead of framing China’s key accomplishments as harmful to the US and West, we might work harder to discern the ways in which mutual benefits can be created.  More specifically, it might be worth trying out a simple thought experiment by asking what if US and western diplomacy toward China and multilateral initiatives in the Pacific Basin were re-focused on enticing, even leveraging China, to cooperate?  Since the US “tilt”, “pivot “ or “rebalance” toward the Asia Pacific in 2011-2012 under President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, US diplomacy has been much more about challenging China than engaging it.  In principle, Obama and Clinton’s approach was to strengthen bilateral security alliances, deepen relationships with emerging powers, including China, and engage with regional organizations. However, in practice the US approach was quite explicitly designed in ways that could only be perceived as threatening by Chinese officials and publics  in the rapidly rising power of the Pacific Basin and well beyond.

The Trans -Pacific Partnership (TPP), or cornerstone of Obama’s economic policy in the Asia-Pacific, for example, was to include all of the major countries in the region (40 percent of the global economy) except China in a comprehensive, integrated economic area. US rhetoric was very much framed in terms of having the US “write” the rules for the global economy in direct opposition to China. Indeed, once leading US politicians from both parties opposed the TPP during the 2016 presidential campaign, the agreement was doomed, at least in terms of US engagement.  Even as President Trump strongly criticized the TPP and withdrew the US in 2017, most of the other countries created their own version.  By the time of Trump’s explicitly hostile stances toward China beginning in 2018, the Chinese pushed for a much less comprehensive regional economic partnership with 15 countries, to accompany their ambitious Belt and Road Initiative that focused on South and Central Asia  This Chinese-led trade deal was agreed in late 2020, although India later pulled out, which substantially undercut its breadth and importance. Essentially, these US diplomatic and multilateral efforts aimed specifically against China ended up enhancing China’s position in the region and eroding US influence (McBride, et al. 2021).

The broader and deeper effects of what has become by 2023 “geopolitical fragmentation” of global capital flows, especially foreign direct investment, are not yet completely clear. The intentional movement of production home or to trusted countries is certainly likely longer term to slow worldwide economic growth, diversification, and resilience to economic and financial shocks (Ahn, et al. 2023).  The effects on developing countries are likely to be the greatest in terms of reduced access to capital and technology, at a time when climate change mitigation and adaptation urgently require acceleration of these flows.  In the US and western economies, the loss of inward foreign investment and competition from Chinese firms is likely to slow innovation and productivity improvements.

Presidents from Truman to Nixon recognized that mass US public opinion toward a foreign country is both a lever that they can sometimes manipulate to accelerate, and one that they must be careful not to accelerate out of control.  Trump’s relatively hostile rhetoric toward China from 2018 through 2020, as well as after his presidency, especially when he framed the pandemic as the “Chinese virus”, certainly helped to sharply increased negative US public opinion of China to unprecedented levels (Silver, et al. 2022).  President Biden’s policies have done relatively little to turn this around, and Republican leaders have especially taken up the cause of villainizing China, despite their brief romance with China in 2017 when it looked like bilateral trade agreements might work out.  In turn, Democratic party leaders seem to fear criticism from the Republicans if they should say or do anything that would be perceived as working with China.  Overall, US foreign policy is potentially locked into a fearful, deeply suspicious, and overly assertive policies and postures toward China.

This is most concerning with regard to Taiwan.  Both President Biden, in his remarks about protecting Taiwan, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi took unnecessarily assertive, one might say provocative, gestures with regard to Taiwan, the single most sensitive and inflammatory issue area for top Chinese officials.  Speaker Kevin McCarthy then followed up by meeting most recently with Taiwan’s president in the US, which triggered yet another round of Chinese military responses with exercises and drills in the Taiwan Strait.  If there is any issue area and situation that will provoke China into direct military action against Taiwan, it is US actions considered to be overtly provocative on Taiwan, and overly embarrassing to President Xi in the face of his domestic audience.  Xi’s provocative and brutal crushing of Hong Kong’s independent political governance is a very clear signal of the extent to which he is willing to stamp out any degree of democratic or pluralistic politics.  And yet it is a very different matter for Xi to decide to invade Taiwan, unless provoked by imprudent US actions.  The countries in the East Asia region are especially fearful  about having China be provoked, into, or provided with any excuse for, military confrontation over Taiwan.

It is also worth considering whether quiet, face to face diplomacy over China’s unacceptable repression in Xinjiang and Tibetan populated areas is likely to be more effective than public, media intensive, diplomacy.  China has become truly a repressive, “police state” under Xi that subjects Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang, as well as certain religious leaders and human rights defenders, to intrusive surveillance, harassment, arbitrary detention, and forced indoctrination.  Chinese leaders generally and Xi specifically simply are not going to compromise on their actions inside the country in any way in the public domain. Human rights, like other issue areas, calls for cross issue area trade-offs and bargaining where the US and its allies offer something of value in exchange for positive steps.

In the world of scientific discovery, process engineering, and  commercializing new technologies, China plays a parallel and crucial role to the US. Each country leads in certain ways and areas, but for discovery and innovation they cannot effectively be separated (National Science Foundation 2022).  US industry, universities and the economy more generally all depend substantially on Chinese students, firms, data, products and especially process engineering and highly skilled factory workers.  The treatment of US scholars by US federal authorities who happen to have Chinese roots is particularly concerning.  Particularly under the so called “China Initiative” by the Trump Administration in 2018, scientists in the US with any China affiliation were targeted without any viable connection to “espionage.”  Public accusations and long investigations ruined careers for leading scientists and began to breakdown the basic, essential collaborations between US and Chinese researchers across key fields of inquiry. Even as the prosecutions failed and the China Initiative was ended in 2022 by the Biden Administration, the Department of Justice continues this activity. To the extent that the US subjects Chinese American scholars and Chinese students in general to secret surveillance, intrusive interviews by federal agents, or other forms of intimidation, we are also engaging in “police state” procedures.

It is well worth considering more fully the long-term contributions of first and second generation Chinese Americans and Chinese students to our society, as well as the more specific benefits to US research and development and higher education.   From 1949 until 2000, and then 2020, the number of Chinese students in the US jumped from essentially zero to nearly 55,000 and 375,000, respectively.  This was approximately double the number of students from India by 2020, the second largest contributor of students to US universities, and more than seven times the number from South Korea, the third largest sending country (National Science Foundation 2022b). In addition, among all of the US doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders from 2005 to 2015, China accounted for more than twice those from India, the second highest country of origin.  Most important, for US doctorate recipients from China (on temporary visas), 87 percent intended to remain in the US after graduation.  This is the same rate as those from India, and only those from Iran had a higher rate.  Among doctorate recipients reporting a definite post-graduation commitment to non-postdoc employment in 2011-2015, temporary visa holders intending to stay in the US were very likely to work in industry or business.  Furthermore,  these foreign graduates were much more likely than US citizens to the work in computer science, natural science or engineering related positions.  US citizens much more often earn doctorates and pursue employment in non-scientific and engineering fields or the life-sciences (National Science Foundation 2022b).

It is difficult to measure precisely the benefits of the Chinese students to US citizen students and the US economy.  The Christian Science Monitor reported (Chu and Tyson 2020) that they contributed about $15 billion to the US economy in 2018.  Certainly these students represent billions of dollars annually in export earnings, and the overall attractiveness of US universities has been declining in recent years as British, Australian and Canadian universities have become relatively more appealing.  In addition, the more that western countries do not attract top students from China, the more likely that some substantial fraction of them will earn their degrees in rapidly expanding Chinese doctoral programs in natural science and engineering, and then seek employment in China.

In sum, is it not critical for the cohesion and health of US society that citizens understand and respect the basic values and contributions of Chinese Americans and Chinese students seeking work and lives in the US?  Harsh rhetoric against China, if not Chinese people, has consequences.  A rise in anti-Asian violence, hate crimes, and bias should mobilize our attention and support for reducing the underlying drivers.   Hyping the “geopolitical threat” of China is a serious matter for Asian Americans, native Hawaiians, and Pacific islanders in the US.  Even before Trump’s inflammatory attempt to mobilize Americans around the “Chinese virus”, the “Wuhan virus” or ”kung flu”, hates crimes against Asians increased more than 30 percent between 2016 and 2018. Even during the Biden Administration, one in six Asian Americans was the victim of a hate crime in 2021, and the rate was rising by 2022.  Strikingly, it is reported that by 2022 one in three Americans believe that Asians are more loyal to their country of origin than to the US (Lee 2022).  This perception directly spills over to East Asians generally from so many different countries and societies.

Is it not time for US political, religious, and thought leaders to highlight what the US stands for instead of what it fears!  US diplomacy and diplomatic approaches have deep consequences at all levels from the global to the local.  In the case of US-China relations, US policies and practices need to incorporate our values and principles, even as issues are perceived as matters of “geopolitical” importance.”

Ahn, JaeBin, et al. 2023. Fragmenting Foreign Direct Investment Hits Emerging Economies Hardest. IMF Blog (Economic Growth) April 5
Chu, Lenora and Ann Tyson. 2020. “Chinese Students have cooled on US: Could Biden Change that?” Christian Science Monitor, December 15
Lee, Jennifer.2022. “When the Geopolitical threat of China Stokes bias against Asian Americans” Proc Natl Aca Sci Dec 13 119(50)
McBride, James, et al.. 2021. “What’s Next for the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP)?” Council on Foreign Relations. September 20.
National Science Foundation. 2022. Science and Engineering Indicators. The State of US Science and Engineering 2022.
National Science Foundation. 2022b. Higher Education in Science and Engineering. Science and Engineering Indicators.
Silver, Laura. et al. 2022. “How Global Public Opinion of China has Shifted in the Xi Era,” Pew Research Center, September 28.
Wang, Dan. 2023. “China’s Hidden Tech Revolution: How Beijing Threatens US Dominance,” Foreign Affairs, March/April.

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Chile)

Jorge Sahd K, Director of the International Studies Center

    The criticality of the current multilateral system

“The relationship between the United States, China and Russia is more dysfunctional than ever,” said a pessimistic UN Secretary General in 2020, on the anniversary of the United Nations amid the Covid-19 pandemic.This statement anticipated an increasingly tense international order, where emerging powers such as China demanded a greater role, the United States tried to balance its troubled domestic politics with its global influence, and Russia became a pariah for the West. Different “tectonic plates” in motion that express the rivalry among the great powers.

The illegitimate military action of Russia in Ukraine, unexpected due to its intensity and duration over time, raises many questions, but one of them is rather a verification of reality: the international system, as we know it, has no responses to the current conflicts. The limited relevance of the UN in the war, whose Security Council is paralyzed, coupled with difficulties in the past to other organizations such as the WTO in the face of the trade war and the recently questioned (and today revitalized) NATO, where Trump and Macron themselves came to describe it as “obsolete” or “brain dead”, demonstrate that the international multilateral system needs to be re-thinking.

The impotence of the international system – clear in the current war – has made it incapable of controlling the Russian impetus, as in the past it was unable to contain the Sino-American trade confrontation and the US invasion of Iraq. The harsh reality is that the rule-based international order is unable of curbing the will of a power: only another power or a group of them can do it. The loss of relevance of the international order is also manifested in the way the allied powers act against Russia: a collective action, even coordinated at the level of economic sanctions and military support for Kyev, but without further communication with international organizations such as the UN. This form of action, where organizations and international law become a sort of mere spectators, involves risks, especially for small and medium-sized nations that remain at the mercy of “the law of the strongest”.

How to combat this growing incapacity of the international multilateral system? First, we must start with the self-criticism of the organizations themselves. Excessive bureaucracy to manage budgets, accountability problems in international cooperation, lack of political diversity and an agenda that is often distant from citizens. International organizations continue to operate under a cold war logic, but little connected with the new geopolitical scenario.The second, and fundamental, responds to the powers themselves. At the end of the day, a new architecture in the international order will be the result of whatever the powers want it to be. International organizations are relevant to the extent that they have the commitment of the powers and international law will be revitalized if the big ones start by leading by example. This will mean concessions on both sides, acknowledging the rebalancing of power in recent decades, but drawing clearer lines in terms of security, democracy and defense of human rights.

The current dysfunctionality makes the task more difficult to undertake. But there is no other alternative. Not only the current woes of war, the pandemic and a fragile economy will require global coordination. It will also be the humanitarian crisis, the new strategies for food and energy security, climate change or the fight against new forms of terrorism. None of these tasks can be successfully addressed in the dysfunctionality of these times. And while the world continues to move towards its fragmentation and the perception of disorder continues to increase, the containment of war risks will be increasingly difficult. Let the current tragedy in Ukraine serves as a lesson.


Prof. Josep Maria Garrell elected new
President of the European University Association

On Thursday, 20 April, 2023, Prof. Josep Maria Garrell, former SACRU President and Universitat Ramon Llull Rector, has been voted as the new President of the European University Association (EUA).

The European University Association (EUA) represents more than 850 universities and national rectors’ conferences in 49 European countries. EUA plays a crucial role in the Bologna Process and in influencing EU policies on higher education, research, and innovation.

Prof. Garrell takes over Michael Murphy and he will serve as EUA President for the term 2023-207. The whole SACRU community would like to congratulate Prof. Garrell on his appointment.


The election of Prof. Josep Maria Garrell,
Gdańsk University of Technology


Climate crisis: adaptation and resilience


The Sacru Alliance and the Institute for Sustainable Development (UC Chile), invite you to a new webinar that will delve into the climate crisis. For this occasion, the panelists will address the dimensions of adaptation and resilience in the face of the new global scenario.

Academic presentations:

  • Maria Fernanda Lemos, Professor of Urban Design and Planning, PUC Rio, Brazil.
  • Francisco Meza, Professor of the Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Engineering. Center for Global Change, UC Chile.

Date: April 13th

Time: 11.30 AM (Chile/Boston), 12.30 (Brazil), 17.30 (Italy/Spain), April 14th 00.00 (Japan), April 14th 01.00 (Australia)


Click on the picture or here to register for the event

SACRU and Centesimus Annus Pro Pontefice Foundation received in private audience by Pope Francis


On Saturday, March 11, the Holy Father Pope Francis received in private audience participants in the conference “More Women’s Leadership for a Better World. Care as a Driver for our Common Home” in which the namesake research, promoted by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation and the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities – was presented.

Below are the addresses of greetings addressed to Pope Francis by SACRU Vice President, Prof. Franco Anelli, and the President of the Centesimus Annus Foundation, Prof. Anna Maria Tarantola.

Greeting from Prof. Franco Anelli

Holy Father,

with emotion we bring to your attention the activity of the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities. Established in 2020, it is a network of eight universities on different continents, from Europe to South and North America, Japan, and Australia, which aims to strengthen the collaboration among Catholic universities in the fulfillment of their mission of constant search for truth and wisdom, and public witness to Christian values.
Universities respond to the call of society: in this sense is oriented the choice, taken jointly with the Centesimus Annus Foundation, to reflect on the theme of the role of women in society by placing at the center of the investigation the special sensitivity of women for the “care” of their neighbors and of the community, their attitude of “taking things to heart,” which translates into an exercise of social roles and functions inspired by a sense of responsibility rather than by ambition for personal affirmation.

We invoke, Holy Father, your benevolent gaze on our work.

Greeting from Prof. Anna Maria Tarantola

Your Holiness,

It is with great gratitude that I address to you on behalf of SACRU and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation our affectionate greeting and a big thank you for the opportunity of this audience.

Yesterday we presented to a significant, qualified, and attentive audience the volume “More Women’s Leadership for a Better World,” which opens with your valuable preface. For this, too, we extend to you our sincere and affectionate thanks.
The volume contains the results of a joint research conducted by 15 academics from different disciplines from 10 Catholic universities in 8 countries worldwide.

Thus, it is a multicultural and multidisciplinary research that addresses inequality between men and women within the more general theme of fighting inequality that we know is very close to your heart. Inequality is one of the most significant obstacles to the integrally sustainable development and fights against poverty that you advocate, Your Holiness, because inequality undermines economic progress, which in turn exacerbates the social inequalities created by inequality. In particular, persistent inequalities of opportunity and status between men and women are the cause and effect of economic inequality. The ten wealthiest people in the world-all men-own as much as 25 percent of the poorest people, predominantly women.
On many occasions since the beginning of your work, Holy Father, you have reminded us of the need to ensure more justice and equality between men and women and to combat the heinous phenomenon of violence against women that is its consequence. Our research is the beginning of a journey stimulated by Your Magisterium.
Here are some research authors from countries far apart physically, in culture and customs. Yet all of us have worked together in harmony to emphasize the goal of pursuing full equality of opportunity and situation of men and women by emphasizing how only in a spirit of brotherhood and social friendship can we build a new, equitable, inclusive world, and integrally sustainable.

Renewing our thanks, we all look forward to hearing your words, Holy Father, which will be a guide for future research.

The Address of the Holy Father Francis

Dear friends, good day and welcome!

I thank Professors Anna Maria Tarantola and Franco Anelli for their kind words and I greet all of you, members of the Foundation Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice and the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities.

Our meeting takes place on the occasion of the presentation of the volume: More Women’s Leadership for a Better World. Care as a Driver for our Common Home. This is a theme quite close to my heart: the importance of care. It was one of the first messages that I wanted to give to the Church from the very start of my pontificate, when I recalled the example of Saint Joseph, the loving protector of the Saviour. [1] The loving protector who cares.

Before turning briefly to certain particular aspects of the work, I would like to emphasize one that is more general. As we have heard, the present volume is the result of a notable variety of contributions, collected and developed through hitherto unprecedented collaboration between a number of Catholic universities worldwide and a Vatican Foundation entirely made up of laypersons. It represents a new and significant process whose rich content derives from the contribution of experiences, competencies, diverse and complementary ways of listening and approaches. It exemplifies a multidisciplinary and multicultural effort with the sharing of different sensibilities: values important not only for a book, but also for a better world.

In light of this, I would like to emphasize three aspects of care as a contribution that women make towards greater inclusivity, greater respect for others and confronting new challenges in a new way.

First, greater inclusivity. The volume discusses the problem of the discrimination often encountered by women, together with other vulnerable groups in society. I have frequently insisted that diversity must never end up in inequality, but in grateful mutual acceptance. True wisdom is multifaceted; it is learned and lived out by journeying together; only thus does it become a “driver” of peace. Your research thus represents a summons, thanks to women and on behalf of women, not to discriminate but to integrate everyone, especially those most vulnerable, at the economic, cultural, racial, and gender levels. No one is to be excluded: this is a sacred principle. Indeed, the plan of God the Creator is an “essentially inclusive” plan, always centred precisely on “those living on the existential peripheries”. [2] A plan that can be compared to a mother, who sees her children as different fingers of her hand: always inclusive.

The second contribution: greater respect for others. Each person must be respected in his or her dignity and fundamental rights: education, employment, freedom of expression, and so forth. This is particularly the case for women, who are more easily subject to violence and abuse. I once listened an expert in history talk about how women came to wear jewelry – women like to wear jewelry, and now men too. There was a civilization where it was the custom that the husband, having many wives, when he arrived home, if did not like one of them, he would say to her: “Go away, get out of here!”; and she had to leave with whatever she was wearing, she could not come back in to take her things: “No, you’re leaving now”. It is for this reason – according to that story – that women began to wear gold, and that was the beginning of the wearing of jewelry. It is a legend, perhaps, but an interesting one. For a long time now, women have been the first material to be discarded. This is terrible. Every person’s rights must be respected.

We cannot be silent before this scourge of our time. Women are used. Yes, here, in the city! They pay you less: well, you are a woman. Then, woe to you if you are pregnant, because if they see you pregnant they won’t give you the job. In fact, if this happens when you are about to start a job, they will send you home. This is one of the techniques they use today in big cities: discarding women, for example, because of their motherhood. It is important to see this reality, it is a plague. Let us make heard the voices of women who are victims of abuse and exploitation, marginalization and undue pressures, like those I mentioned with regard to work. Let us become the voice of their pain, and denounce forcefully the injustices to which they are subjected, often in situations that deprive them of any possibility of defence and redemption. Let us also make space for their activities, which is naturally and potentially sensitive and oriented towards the safeguarding of life in every state, age and condition.

We now come to the third point: confronting new challenges in a new way. Creativity. It is undeniable that women contribute to the common good in their own unique way. We see this already in sacred Scripture, where women frequently play a critical role at decisive moments in salvation history. We think of Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, Susanna and Ruth, culminating with Mary and the women who followed Jesus even to the cross, where – let us not forget – the only man who remained was John, the others all left. Only the courageous ones were there: Women. Then too, in the history of the Church, we can think of women like Catherine of Siena, Josephine Bakhita, Edith Stein, Teresa of Calcutta and also the “women next door”, and we know how they heroically endure difficult marriages, children with problems… This is the heroism of women. Apart from the clichés of a certain genre of hagiography, these were women of impressive determination, courage, fidelity, remarkable for their ability to persevere, even amid suffering, and to communicate joy, integrity, humility and firm resolve.

In Buenos Aires I use to take the bus that went to a northwest sector, where there were many parishes, that bus always passed close to the prison and there was always a line of people who went to visit the prisoners: 90% were women, mothers, mothers who never abandon their children! Mothers. And this is the strength of a woman: silent strength, but long-lasting. Our history abounds with women of this kind, whether famous or anonymous – albeit not to God! – who have inspired and sustained the journey of families, societies and the Church; sometimes with problematic, vicious husbands… the children move on… . We see this even here in the Vatican, where women who work hard, also in roles of great responsibility, are now numerous, thank God. For example, from the moment that a woman became the Deputy Governor, things work better here, much better. And other places, where there are women, Secretaries, the Council for the Economy, for example, there were six cardinals and six laymen, all men. Two years ago, it was renewed, and of the laity one is a man and five are women, and it has started to function, because they have a different capacity: the possibility of acting and also of patience. Once a manager told a story of a worker who became the head of the union and at the time had great authority – he had no father, only a mother, very poor, she did domestic work, they lived in a small house: there was the mother’s bedroom, and then a small room to eat and he slept in that room, he often got drunk at night, he was 22-23 years old – he said that when his mother went out in the morning to work, to clean houses, she stopped, looked at him: he was awake but pretended to be asleep; she would look at him and then go away. “And my mother’s perseverance, of looking at me without reproaching me and tolerating me, changed my heart one day, and so I got where I am”. Only a woman can do this; the father would have kicked him out. We have to look at the way women act: it is a great thing.

We are living in an age of epochal changes, which call for suitable and credible responses. In acknowledging the contributions made by women to these processes, I would like to draw attention to one specific process, namely, the progressive development and use of forms of artificial intelligence and the complex issue it raises about the growth of new and unpredictable dynamics of power. This is largely uncharted territory, and so our forecasts can only be conjectural and approximate. In this area, however, women have much to say. For they are uniquely able, in their way of acting, to synthesize three different languages: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hands. But symphonically. A woman, when she is mature, thinks what she feels and does; she feels what she does and thinks; she does what she feels and thinks: it is a harmony. This is the genius of woman; and she teaches men to do it, but it is the woman who comes first to this harmony of expression, of thinking with the three languages. This synthesis is distinctively human, and women incarnate it marvelously, – not exclusively but marvelously and also primarily – better than any machine, for no machine can feel beating within itself the heart of a child in the womb, or collapse, exhausted yet happy, at the bedside of a child, or weep with sadness or happiness in sharing the sorrows and joys of a loved one. The husband works, sleeps and… moves on. It is these things that women do, naturally, uniquely, precisely because of their ability to care. That is why, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote, it can be said that: “at this time, when humanity is experiencing such profound changes, women… can greatly assist mankind from degenerating”. [3]

With this conviction, I would like to conclude our meeting by taking up the words of Saint John Paul II in Mulieris Dignitatem: “The Church gives thanks for each and every woman. For mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women who work professionally, for all women, in all the beauty and richness of their femininity”. [4]

Thank you, dear friends! Please know of my appreciation for this important research and my good wishes for your work. I bless you. And I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you.













Women’s leadership as a value and wealth for a better society

Presented in Rome the research “More Women’s Leadership,” promoted by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation and Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities

March 10, Rome – “This book is about women, their talents, abilities and skills, and the inequalities, violence and prejudices that still characterize the female world. Women’s issues are particularly close to my heart. In many of my speeches I have referred to them, emphasizing how much still remains to be done for the full empowerment of women,” so writes Pope Francis in the preface to the volume “More Women’s Leadership for a Better World” (ed. Vita e Pensiero), containing the research that was presented on Friday, March 10, at the Holy See, promoted by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation and the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU).

“I am very pleased to kick off this event,” said Prof. Pier Sandro Cocconcelli, “an occasion to present the book that summarizes the results of a significant research work, coordinated by President Tarantola, whom I would like to warmly thank, a book that was honored to receive the Preface of the Holy Father, Pope Francis. SACRU, a strategic alliance of eight universities from five different continents, was established to promote research and university education among the eight partner universities and promote studies with significant impacts on society.

This volume on women’s leadership provides an excellent example of achieving these goals. First, it demonstrates the ability of an international university network’s ability to collaborate among partners and develop partnerships with external stakeholders on sensitive issues, thanks to its strong identity and natural inclination for a multidisciplinary approach and openness to dialogue. Second, this study aligns with Pope Francis’ numerous calls to give women equal dignity in society and the Church itself.”

Our research,” Prof. Anna Maria Tarantola argues, “aims to propose concrete solutions to empower women in all societal contexts and sectors and to use their skills, abilities, and talents. Today’s reality, characterized by conflicts, such as the terrible war in Ukraine, where women are underrepresented at the tables of negotiation, health, climate, and social crises, and by an intense and unpredictable digital evolution, requires new leadership figures with a long-term vision perspective and a special sensitivity to diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. Leaders who must be inspired by cooperative competition. These are characteristics that women have. Their greater involvement in top positions and their voice can facilitate the achievement of the necessary new model of development and the new equitable, inclusive, and fully sustainable world proposed by Pope Francis.”

And it is on what has been done and especially on what remains to be done that all the interventions focused, particularly in the two round tables that animated the meeting: the first, entitled “Topicality of the presence of women in top positions,” moderated by journalist Tonia Cartolano, in dialogue with the co-authors of the research.

The second, titled “Women’s contributions to the solutions of the challenges of the new world,” moderated by journalist Deborah Castellano Lubov who dialogued with Antonella Sciarrone Alibrandi, Undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Education, Elisabetta Olivieri, President of Autostrade per l’Italia, Lella Golfo, President of the Bellisario Foundation, and Elena Beccalli, President of the European Association for Banking and Finance Law and Dean of the Faculty of Banking, Finance, and Insurance at Università Cattolica. SACRU President Zlatko Skrbis made the conclusions of the meeting.

SACRU Working Group 2 published the Laudato Si’ Report

WG2 reflects the Catholic identity of the SACRU member universities and how they have committed themselves to the principles of Laudato Si’, seeking to care for the Common Home and its inhabitants

“The urgent challenge of protecting our common home includes the concern of uniting the entire human family in the search for sustainable and integral development, since we know that things can change”, says Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. In that sense, Catholic universities have a lot to do. As the Pope tells: “Young people demand a change from us. They wonder how it is possible to try to build a better future without thinking about the environmental crisis and the suffering of the excluded”.

This report seeks to answer that call. It presents a display of today’s campus initiatives that are being developed across SACRU universities, identifying how Laudato Si’ is integrated in several aspects of the university community such as education, research, campus life and public outreach. This document also presents the series of webinars that were developed jointly combining efforts across the 8 universities of SACRU.

This document is a combined effort of the Working Group members and many contributors from SACRU university community members. It is formed by 15 people from 8 universities: Australian Catholic University, Boston College, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Sophia University, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, and Universitat Ramon Llull.


Ethics as a compass:
reflections for the Safer Internet Day


 In light of the Safer Internet Day, launched by the European Commission in 2004, experts from the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities have analyzed the ethical implications of digital technologies

In 2004, the European Commission launched Safer Internet Day to promote positive and responsible internet use, especially among young people. This initiative broadened its scope involving more than 150 countries and raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities presented by emerging digital technologies. Recently, as the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to a faster spread of technology by moving a range of experiences from face-to-face to the digital world, the debate around the need for a humane dimension of technology has grown.

Inspired by its mission of global cooperation for the Common Good, the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) has collected insights from its experts on the ethical questions posed by digital technologies from a multidisciplinary perspective. SACRU is a network composed of eight Catholic Universities from four different continents. The contributions represent the personal views of individual academics and are not intended as the official positions of SACRU and its partner Universities.

Contributions by experts – SACRU Universities

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy)

Written by Giuseppe Riva, Director of Humane Technology Lab, and Ciro De Florio, Associate Professor of Logic and Philosophy

Ethics as a compass

Every technology reshapes the world. For this reason, technology is rarely value-neutral: it affects reality, and moral relevance accompanies every causal action. And there is no doubt that, for the past twenty years or so, the agenda of technology ethicists has been dominated by two words: Artificial intelligence (AI). AI is generally associated with two powerful narratives that sometimes have polarizing aspects. On the one hand, AI is understood as the triumph of human reason, the creation of what sets us apart from the rest of the natural world. However, there is another, a more human-centric, narrative that questions the impact of this technology on the various dimensions of our experience: from work to interpersonal relationships. These two narratives are independent and return different images of the digital revolution. However, the reunification of these perspectives seems essential to governing this phenomenon. The goal is not easy because AI acts with a degree of autonomy and independence never before observed, bringing out a new category of actors: “artificial agents.”

The other major ethical research pillar in AI is algorithms’ transparency. The more intelligent, autonomous, adaptive software is, the more difficult it becomes to understand “from the outside” the mechanisms by which information is analyzed. The media reflection on the importance of ethics in AI concerns, in large part, the normative relevance of software systems and information management: selecting a candidate based on a prediction about his or her productivity or diagnosing a certain disease are actions that involve information processing. However, AI systems can do much more than that; they can act concretely in our world, harming or saving lives, relieving from physical fatigue, or relegating humans to spectators.

The union of robotics with AI opens up largely unexplored fields whose ethical, economic, political, and social consequences could be disruptive. Interaction with robots introduces a set of problems that software does not: a robot’s agency and a human’s agency toward a robot are inescapably mediated by physical interaction. But not all robots, that is, not all technological devices with AI systems, resemble humans. There are (semi-)automatic machines on the horizon whose operation is already under the lens of AI ethicists. Think, as examples, of self-driving cars and automatic weapons; again, what is relevant for ethical consideration are different (new?) concepts of agency, control, and autonomy. What the digital revolution and the advent of AI need are not narratives but rational looks at the world based on a “human,” integrated, multidisciplinary approach that combines knowledge of technical aspects with that of the processes and contexts in which AI and robotics will be used. Unfortunately, without this double perspective, the risk of losing the ethical challenge is very high.

 Written by Giovanna Mascheroni, Associate Professor of Sociology of Media and Communication

Children and AI

AI is embedded in many platforms, services and objects we, including children, use on a daily basis- at home, at school, in the workplace, on the move. And, yet, the role of AI in children’s lives- let alone its problematic consequences for children’s futures- remains almost invisible in the public debate, hidden behind the industry hype and the powerful discourse of techno- or data-solutionism. Contrary to this rhetoric, however, AI systems are not artificial: rather, they are heavily dependent on data extraction and processing, algorithmic automation, and the legitimation of data as accurate, objective, and impartial representations of reality. In other words, AI does not only require the extraction of natural resources, huge amounts of computational power and energy, or the exploitation of human labour – as the recent case of Open AI using underpaid Kenyan workers reminds us: AI is premised upon our submission to datafication, to turning our lives into profitable resources for surveillance capitalism.

Children’s everyday lives—their contexts, practices, and emotions- are not exempt. From the recommendation systems of YouTube, streaming or gaming platforms; to the voice-based agents embedded in domestic smart speakers; to algorithms running on educational platforms or health apps, children’s lives are routinely dependent on data, systematically turned into digital data, and increasingly governed by algorithmic classification and automated processes. The risks involve more than facing data breaches and privacy violations. In 2020, when the A-level grades were decided by a controversial algorithm in place of the usual exams, thousands of British students were downgraded and risked their admission to university. As this example shows, data-driven includes biases as much as human judgment: whether it originates in the historical data used to train machine learning, or in the (often manual) classification of data, or even in the design and programming of the algorithm itself, algorithmic bias results in systematic discrimination and “allocative” and “representational harms”.

Respectively, the unequal access to resources (education, health, credit, job opportunities, etc.) based on presumably “impartial” algorithmic classifications, and the influence of stereotyped classifications on a child’s self-representation, their understanding of the social world and, ultimately, their agency to encompass the longer-term harms that AI, if unregulated, may pose to children. In order to repurpose AI for a better future, policy interventions should move beyond privacy to encompass questions of equity, transparency, and sustainability. Beyond data protection regulation and to avoid longer-term harms, children, their parents, and educators should be given a voice in the automated decisions made for them by AI systems.

Universitat Ramon Llull (Spain)

Written by Xavier Vilasís, Full Professor at La Salle-URL Engineering Department

 The key for artificial intelligence governance

Artificial Intelligence is polarising. Some consider it a humankind major threat, while others see it solving people’s main challenges. Some just look at the money-making opportunities it provides. In any case, the discussion is rarely set on sound technical grounds but rather on the powerful storytelling invoked by the attribution of human features to algorithms.

Yet facts are that large amounts of personal and context data are available, and more shall be in the future, while computer capacity has dramatically increased. This has enabled the development of complex algorithms, performing accurate profiling of citizens, detecting their presence, or generating coherent text.

None of these activities is new, but our dependence on the digital world and the scale at which those analyses can be performed could potentially exploit our psychological weaknesses. Once again, in technological development, it is not technology to blame but its use. And again, three major players are required to ensure the best potential use of these new advancements. First, algorithm designers and users, who must do their best to keep the ethical and moral principles of their use. Second, individuals who must exert critical thinking on what is being proposed. And third, regulators, who must enforce laws making sure ethical and moral guidelines shall be followed.

What makes Artificial Intelligence different from other technological advances is its direct global social reach, combined with its technical complexity. Education becomes key to provide all players the ability to perform critical thinking, the proper guidelines to set ethical and moral principles and finally, of course, the knowledge to grasp the reach of the technology. These requirements imply the need for a comprehensive span of education both at first, secondary, and tertiary levels, breaking set divisions between STEAM and other disciplines.

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Chile)

Written by Gabriela Arriagada, Assistant Professor of AI & Data Ethics

 We cannot develop good human-centred AI without teaching applied ethics

The discipline of human-centred AI (HCAI) focuses on aiding humans instead of replacing them, thus extending human abilities and capabilities to develop technified societies by designing new interactions between humans and AI. Most recently, two major events have incorporated this sub-discipline into their agenda. NeurIPS, in 2021, analysed the use of machine learning algorithms in healthcare, education, and government, through the understanding of technical requirements, design approaches, efficacy metrics and societal impact for HCAI systems. IBM, in 2022, organized a conference on intelligent user interfaces, with cutting-edge innovations for human-computer interaction based on generative AI research (generating new images, text, code, video, and audio), including areas such as co-creative systems and explainability.

Despite the exponential advancement in research initiatives in the public and private sectors, a critical role in the development of HCAI has been consistently overlooked. One of HCAI’s goals is facilitating shared objectives between the optimization goals of an AI and human decision-making. To advance in this goal, however, it is essential to consider and integrate the contextual needs of different affected social groups into AI’s design and development methodologies. This contextualization implies analyzing background information beyond the collected data points, which amounts to societal conditions affecting individuals the AI is programmed to aid. Incorporating systematic ethical scrutiny, for example, can help prevent solutionism traps from blinding against alternative solutions to a socio-technical problem, which may not require using AI as the default. After all, technical feasibility does not amount to moral desirability.

Thus, developing AI technologies to serve people requires an interdisciplinary perspective rooted in the moral questioning of real-life AI applications that fosters trust whilst respecting people’s dignity. Teaching these methodological tools for moral deliberation is still underdeveloped. Many undergraduate and graduate courses keep ethics as a foreign aspect of their curriculum. We are educating highly trained developers and overlooking their role as professionals and citizens capable of critically engaging with concerns about fairness, equality, discrimination, transparency, and responsibility in AI.

A central dimension of an applied ethical approach to AI’s development implies meaningful human control over the AI. The interpretation, understanding, and implementation of the technology’s limitations depend on human decision-making, which is necessarily context-dependent. Accordingly, to continue this integration of human-centred AI into society, we cannot move forward without educating future developers to think and deliberate about the ethics of AI, not as an added feature but as a foundational element.

Universidade Católica Portuguesa (Portugal)

 Written by Paulo Cardoso, Professor at Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics and expert in digital innovation

 How safe is the Internet?

The Internet has been around for more than 50 years already. Still, it only conquered the world after the World Wide Web advent, starting in the mid-90s. In those old days, many of us believed that the freedom of communication would naturally foster the freedom of speech, allowing participants to access as much information and knowledge as they wanted and possibly could. We sincerely believed we were building a better world.

For example, back in 1991, many of us used the communication tools already present on the Internet to spread out the word about what happened in the Santa Cruz Massacre in Indonesia, pushing for freedom in a movement that eventually led to the creation of Timor-Leste.

In Europe, the Internet was forbidden in most countries until 1994. At the time, adopting a USA-based protocol developed by the military, and supported by technologies and companies on the other side of the Atlantic, was utterly inconceivable. For those like us using the Internet against the law in Europe, the world of free communication seemed scattered for good. And then, in October 1994, a surprisingly magical event happened when the G7 committed towards adopting a standard protocol to be the bedrock for a worldwide and free communication platform among all. By chance, the Web was just born at the time, and all crucial elements lined up to spread the adoption of what is today the wonderful and previously imaginable common communication space for most.

Reduced asymmetries of information & knowledge seemed to push the world towards safety and prosperity. It looked like everybody connected could access the truth, no matter what. Still, we have been witnessing troublesome examples like the rise of negationists and the US Capitol attack on the 5th of January 2021, where thousands of people shared death wishes against freedom’s representatives in the USA, all in the name of freedom itself. And it turns out that most people with dark beliefs originate in the same Internet. How was this possible? Why are individuals using their freedom to opt for the dark side? How often do we stumble on misinformation, or even disinformation, within messages coming from those we trust and with whom we share the same values, only to find they were simply misled? Consequently, the Internet became unsafe because it can contribute to strengthening the darkest forces on earth. How can we fight for a safer internet?

The ongoing discussion on how to influence or control Big Tech’s platforms for supervising their own content is as tricky as dangerous. So, the other option is strengthening recipients’ enlightenment, with space for rightfully judging the good from the bad. A major contribution in this sense comes from handling biases, where education can be pivotal to preparing individuals for the communication jungle that the Internet has evolved into. Biases are unconscious and can be rewarding because individuals are addictively joyful when believing to be right. So, how can we help individuals’ cognitive efforts to recognize their biases and mitigate the corresponding consequences through self-awareness?