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What is unique about science advice from an Academy? London November 4, 2008 Bruce Alberts Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Co-chair Inter. Academy Council, Amsterdam Editor-in-chief, Science magazine
My Bottom Lines: 1). It is critically important that science, and scientists, achieve a much higher degree of influence throughout both their nations and the world. 2). Academies of Science will be instrumental for this spreading of science and its values. • Your efforts are important for your nation’s success. • They are also important for building a better world.
Why scientific judgments are crucial for policymakers • Science has allowed humans to gain a deep understanding of the natural world. • In many cases, we can therefore predict the effects of current actions on the future.
My life from 1993 -2005 A 12 -year education in Washington
Policy advice from the US National Academies • More than 200 reports a year, 85 percent requested by the US government • Full text released to the press, and to the public on our Website, when report is delivered to government • Two types of reports: most “science for policy”, but many are “policy for science”
The critical take-home lesson from my 12 years in Washington Science is much more important than most scientists think!
In particular, we need: 1). Governments that base their policies on what scientists predict about the effect of current actions on the future (global warming is just one of many examples) 2). Much more of the creativity, rationality, openness, and tolerance that are inherent to science --- what Indian Prime Minister Nehru called a “scientific temper” -- for both the US and all other nations.
My favorite quote “The society of scientists is simple because it has a directing purpose: to explore the truth. Nevertheless, it has to solve the problem of every society, which is to find a compromise between the individual and the group. It must encourage the single scientist to be independent, and the body of scientists to be tolerant. From these basic conditions, which form the prime values, there follows step by step a range of values: dissent, freedom of thought and speech, justice, honor, human dignity and self respect. Science has humanized our values. Men have asked for freedom, justice and respect precisely as the scientific spirit has spread among them. ” Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values, 1956
The potential advantages of “academy-type” institutions • Merit-based selection of members based on peer evaluations. Therefore represent the best of science and engineering • Governed by members with a selfrenewing membership, stable and insulated from political interference
A critical mission for science academies: telling truth to power • Politicians often tend to cater to those with special interests, focusing on short term gains. • Only a strong, respected voice for local scientists is likely to provide the countervailing power needed for a nation to make wise long-run decisions on many issues.
Often, only local scientists will have the credibility required to rescue a nation from misguided local policies and beliefs Some recent examples: • Fear of polio vaccination in Nigeria • Fear of GM crops in many nations • Myths about HIV in South Africa
Important recent report from the South African Academy of Sciences
The problems facing some science academies • Membership fails to recognize the organization’s potential for influencing society and government. • Failure to adequately respect engineers, economists, and social scientists. • Lack of the financial resources required to support the type of academy staff needed to produce high-quality policy advice.
IAP Worldwide Launched in 1993, IAP is a global network of 98 science academies 91 countries IAP members
The support of “sustainability science” by the Inter. Academy Panel • Helping the science academies in each nation develop a larger role in their own societies, including becoming a respected advisor to their own governments • Sharing information and resources as “public goods” to strengthen world science (e. g. , electronic journals and other Web publications, programs and resources for science education, ages 5 to 25)
www. National. Academies. org Full text of more than 3000 books now on-line, accessible through powerful search engine For 146 nations, these are available as free PDFs
Through the IAP, the academy presidents recognized that scientists need to have a much larger presence in world affairs. In particular, how can the world’s scientists more effectively communicate their agreement on central issues? ord a more rational and a more prosperous place.
The answer: The IAC was established by the IAP in 2000, with a secretariat at KNAW in Amsterdam
The 15 Academy presidents who initially governed the Inter. Academy Council (IAC) Academy Population China 1, 240, 000 India 1, 000, 000 United States 272, 000 Brazil 171, 000 Russia** 146, 000 Japan 126, 000 Mexico** 100, 000 Germany 82, 000 United Kingdom 59, 100, 000 France 58, 900, 000 South Africa** 43, 400, 000 Malaysia 21, 300, 000 Sweden** 8, 910, 000 Israel** 5, 740, 000 Third World Academy of Sciences * Replaced by Chile, Iran, Hungary, Turkey, and the African Academy in 2005 Next turnover of five academies in March 2009
The promise of world science collaboration
The first report of the Inter. Academy Council was released at the UN General Assembly in February, 2004 Inventing a Better Future: A Strategy for Building Worldwide Capacities in Science and Technology. • A guide for building high quality institutions for science and technology in every nation. • Committee co-chairs from Brazil and Egypt, plus scientists from 10 other nations.
The first three IAC reports, 2004 to 2006 capacity building agriculture women
IAC Panel on African Agriculture Speciosa Wandira KAZIBWE, Uganda KAZIBWE Peter MATLON, USA Rudy RABBINGE, Netherlands RABBINGE Ahmadou Lamine NDIAYE, Senegal M. S. SWAMINATHAN, India SWAMINATHAN Bongiwe NJOBE, South Africa Mohamed BESRI, Morocco Emmanuel Uche ODIGBOH, Nigeria Manuela CHAVES, Portugal Gideon ORON, Israel Avílio Antonio FRANCO, Brazil Per PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN, Denmark Jikun HUANG, China Elly N. SABIITI, Uganda Ryuichi ISHII, Japan José SARUKHAN, Mexico Renald LAFOND, Canada Jennifer THOMSON, South Africa
4 th IAC report released October 2007 Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future Co-chairs: Steve Chu (USA) and Jose Goldemberg (Brazil)
A problem with international attempts to help Africa: little coordination “Hundreds of well-intentioned international aid agencies, with their own priorities and idiosyncrasies, seldom cooperate or even communicate with each other. Instead, they compete for publicity, funding, and access to potential recipients. Overburdened leaders in developing countries, whose governments are often relatively disorganized, confront a cacophony of offers and demands from donors. ” Jimmy Carter
Can strong national academies of science help provide the missing coordination? Could strong academies, working closely with landgrant type universities, help to organize and coordinate the work of aid agencies, with university institutes and departments replacing many of the uncoordinated and competing NGOs?
The urgent need for capacity building • Those of us in more scientifically advanced nations must help less advanced nations develop a greater capacity in science and technology, as appropriate to their national needs. • This in our own interest, as well as being critical for the rest of the world.