Science is a powerful means of understanding the world in which we live and it is also capable of yielding enormous returns that directly enhance socio-economic development and the quality of our lives. Scientific advances over the last five decades have led to revolutionary changes in technology, health, nutrition and communication. Moreover, the role of science promises to be yet greater in the future because of ever-more-rapid scientific progress.Meanwhile, humanity is being confronted with problems on a global scale, many - such as environmental degradation, pollution and climatic change - provoked by the mismanagement of natural resources or unsustainable production and consumption patterns. Even if the technology implicated in these problems can be said to have stemmed from science, we cannot hope to resolve these problems without the correct and timely use of science in the future. And yet, in spite of the opportunities it offers us all, science itself is facing wavering confidence and uncertain investment, as well as dilemmas of an ethical nature. These problems can only be solved if the scientific and business communities, governments and the general public are able to reach, through debate, a common ground on science with respect to the service it is to provide to society and a new commitment to science from society in the years to come.