Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan was today officially designated as UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Science for Peace at a ceremony at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The honour was bestowed by Mme Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, in recognition of HRH’s tireless advocacy for Science as a catalyst for change in Jordan and the wider Middle East. In honouring Princess Sumaya, Mme Bokova emphasised the Princess’s commitment to promoting science among young people in the region.
The Princess joins a list of just 10 other UNESCO Special Envoys who have been chosen as standard bearers for the organisation’s programmes and philosophy. The small group of globally recognised personalities shares a commitment to the ideals and objectives of UNESCO and provides an invaluable contribution by raising public awareness on matters linked to the organisation’s mandate.
Professor Julian Kinderlerer, Event Co-Chair & Member, European Group on Ethics & Science in New Technologies (EGE) reporting to EC President Juncker.
Abstract: The Brussels Declaration on Ethics & Principles for Science & Society Policy-Making, launched in February 2017, brings together the findings from a series of five consultation events in which more than 300 individuals from 35 countries examined how power operates in science and society. Their findings were further scrutinised during twenty-five symposia held at global conferences from 2012 – 2016. To-date, the Declaration has had over 45 million views. All delegates will have read the Declaration in advance (https://www.sci-com.eu). My talk will set the scene for the day’s engagements by highlighting how this bottom-up initiative began as a genuine attempt by the scientific community to question the robustness of science-led policy-making worldwide. Proposing a twenty-point blueprint for a set of ethics and principles to inform work at the boundary between science, society and policy, my role is to kick-start new thinking about its relevance to our pioneering initiative focusing specifically on pan-African approaches. Our goal is to produce a new Cape Town Declaration in time for the World Science Forum 2021. Our common effort is to boost Africa’s understanding of how power operates and to explain why evidence plus dialogue rarely equals (as one might expect) good decisions and laws. Above all, we must make the case for a broad, multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approach promoting greater integrity and accountability.
Daan Du Toit Deputy Director General, International Relations, Department of Science & Technology.
Abstract: My presentation will analyse the complex nexus of relationships between various constituencies inside Africa’s science establishments. I will examine progress towards better harnessing science and science-advice for both policy and decision-making. In particular, I will highlight concrete examples of inter-regional and broader international cooperation. In 2014, the African Union adopted its comprehensive Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA), which seeks to harness science as an instrument for Africa’s growth and development agenda. Furthermore, recent years have seen intense activity across the continent as different governments develop first or review existing national science and innovation policies and strategies. Also the continent’s Regional Economic Communities, increasingly look to leverage the role of science as an enabler for regional cooperation and integration. The African science landscape comprises a rich and diverse group of actors from government and academia but also the private sector – with Africa increasingly regarded as a hotbed for innovation in, for example, information and communication technologies.
Dr Kgosi Letlape Chairman of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, Chairman of the African Medical Association, former Chairman of the World Medical Association.
Abstract: My life’s work has been in tackling the HIV/Aids challenge insofar as the epidemic was viewed through a moral compass and not strictly as a health issue. As a result, countless people were not saved when medical science had the answers but policy was slow to act. I will examine the opportunity we now have across Africa in learning from this experience when tackling pressing lifestyle issues around substance addictions in drugs, alcohol and nicotine.
Professor Thomas Hartung MD PhD, Professor of Evidence-Based Toxicology, Johns Hopkins University, USA, and Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Konstanz, Germany.
Abstract: Science is not very good at critically appraising itself or indeed, its results. The explosion in ways and means to communicate across multiple platforms these days is a mixed bag. On the one hand, more stakeholders can get involved, results can be more readily shared and theoretically both competence and scrutiny should increase. My talk will demonstrate how, on the other hand, this has just not happened in terms of greater quality assurance and seek to explain why.
In terms of our inaugural, pan-African high-level consultation event, I will make the case for these lessons to be learned now so that the fifty-four-country-continent can better address its societal safety needs based on sound, factual evidence matching local knowledge and needs. I will raise a red flag for Africa in illustrating how things can go wrong when safety science is cherry-picked. In order not to repeat the lessons slowly learned by the self-proclaimed “first world”, a critical appraisal of traditional and new approaches is necessary, to tailor safety testing strategies for the lifestyle challenges of a continent predicted reach four billion citizens in the coming decades.
The Brussels Declaration was published on 17th February at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Massachusetts. It is a 20-point blueprint for a set of ethics and principles to inform work at the boundaries of science, society and policy. It makes the case for a multidisciplinary approach that will encourage greater integrity and accountability among stakeholders.
The document brings together findings from a series of five consultation events and symposia at global conferences in 2012–16, in which more than 300 individuals from 35 countries examined the science of science policymaking. Using a grass-roots approach involving politicians, science advisers, scientific officers from industry, civil-society leaders, clinicians, social scientists, academia and science editors, the aim was to boost understanding of how power operates in science and society and to explain why evidence plus dialogue rarely equals good decisions and laws.
(left to right) Sir Peter Gluckman, Professor Julian Kinderlerer, Professor Kathryn O’Hara, Dr. Wilson Compton MD, Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, Aidan Gilligan, Professor Michel Kazatchkine MD
Pearl Dykstra is Professor of Empirical Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Member of the High Level Group of scientists advising the Cabinet of European Commissioners.
"Science advice is most effective when scientists and policy-makers work in a consultative way. Building links with policy-makers requires patience and resources, so scientists must be supported in their efforts to forge such links."
United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy
"We have all heard about bad science, bad pharma and big tobacco or alcohol, but what gets overlooked is the life and death impacts of bad policy-making. We must challenge our killer policies. The political barriers to improved health practices must come down."
Executive Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan
"The body of work achieved over this five-year reflection is truly remarkable. By cleverly using substance addictions to tease out those best practices and pitfalls relevant to all actual advice mechanisms, the world of science and society has a new blueprint we must all put into practice."
Professor of science broadcast journalism at Carleton University; former President of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association; former Board Member, World Federation of Science Journalists.
"These consultation exercises are indispensable in looking at how we might form science policy with an ethical muscle. It may seem obvious, but fitness of any kind needs motivation, goals and practice to achieve definition. This is one important way of approaching a much needed strengthening of our body politic."
Director, Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research, US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
"What this novel series of discussions proves is that even inside some of our most reputable scientific and policy enterprises we can get it wrong. Scientists are central to providing accurate and complete information that can be used to guide policy and practice. Minimizing and addressing bias in the collection and reporting of data is key to maximizing the influence of such knowledge. This consultation process has broken new ground for many in making it clear that a broader array of scientific inputs and actors are required to get it right."
Professor & Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology, Director, Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing; Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dept.of Environmental Health Sciences.
"Scientist have to leave the ivory tower to impact on society, but to do so credibly, advice must be based on sound, ethical and humane science. They owe the society that finances them the best advice possible and must be open for communication and criticism.”
Strategic Adviser, Ministry of Science, Innovation & Higher Education; Bid Coordinator ESOF 2014 Copenhagen
"This is a worrying time for those of us who believe public policies should be based on the best evidence available. Profound ethical principles and social responsiveness are necessary preconditions for restoring trust in science. The Brussels Declaration presents a much needed bottom-up approach to science advice that requires broad societal engagement and policy action.”
Strategic Adviser, Ministry of Science, Innovation & Higher Education; Bid Coordinator ESOF 2014 CopenhagenAssistant Chief Science Adviser to President Barroso, Former Assistant to the Director-General, European Commission, Joint Research Centre
While defending the evidence, science advisors must show empathy for public concerns. Acknowledging the other's viewpoint is a precondition for engaging in an open-minded societal dialogue."
Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet, formerly First-President of the World Association of Medical Editors
"Harm reduction science is arguably one of the best kept secrets in public health today. It has unquestionable potential to vastly improve how public, private and third party groups work together on preventable causes of disease and premature death linked to lifestyle."
Secretary General of Euroscience; former Director, Research Council of The Netherlands & Academy of Sciences of The Netherlands
"Our greatest challenge impacting human health and our eco-systems stems from the ongoing emergence of new viral strains and mutants as a consequence of globalisation, migration and travel. We need to ensure better global coordination of warning and control systems, vaccines and epidemiology while not letting the interests of agriculture and the drug industry trump those of public health."
Deputy Minister of Corrections of Georgia
"Expecting to solve public health problems by enforcement-led policies can lead to a downward spiral of increased harm and ultimately death. Prisons reinforce lost health, social contacts and broken families. We need to balance active law enforcement with prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and harm reduction while never lowering our commitment to basic principles of human rights."
President of the European Brain Council, Consultant to the World Health Organisation & Adviser to the European Union
"The greatest public health challenge we face is threefold: getting medicines to market quicker without jeopardising their safety, balancing the co-morbidity and polypharmacy of an ageing population and dragging all stakeholders out of their silos to work together."
Centre for Population Health Science, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
"Countries should acknowledge addiction as a problem requiring equal status to cardio-respiratory diseases and cancer. The challenge is to formulate a policy of decriminalisation that is possible for politicians to implement. Getting people to listen is the trick."
Dean of Research at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
"The conglomerate of non-communicable diseases all related to eating habits and sedentary life-styles with its impact on health equity is the most important health challenge. Health research has to improve its ability to deliver better descriptions of complex problems to politics and society."
Former Europe Correspondent for the Irish Examiner and former President of the International Press Association
"Mental illness is our greatest challenge. 90% of mental illness sufferers kill themselves, more than murder and warfare combined. WHO says this accounts for 38% of all ill health in high-income countries where heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease and diabetes account for 22% combined. The cost of therapy is not high - about the same as 6 months’ treatment of diabetes. But less than 25% are treated compared to 90% of diabetics. Tackling mental health is our greatest individual & societal opportunity, also from an economic perspective."
Founder of the Fagherström Test for Nicotine Dependence, Recipient of the 1999 WHO Medal for outstanding work in tobacco control.
The biggest challenge is with tobacco because it causes the most harm. It also provides the biggest opportunity since nicotine by itself is not that harmful. Thus the challenge for the policy is to design systems so that people chose to use the least harmful tobacco and nicotine products. The effects of drugs and alcohol may be more disturbing for society, but in terms of monetary costs to society, death and disease, they fade in comparison to tobacco smoking.
CEO, SciCom – Making Sense of Science
"Harm reduction, particularly in drugs, alcohol and tobacco, is the greatest preventable public health challenge we face today. I look forward to bringing together some of the best minds around to look at the science underpinning current approaches and challenging policy-makers to do better."
‘Advancing Science Discovery To Application’
15 – 19, February, 2018
American Association for the Advancement of Science, Annual Meeting, Austin, Texas
‘17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health’
7-9 March 2018
Cape Town, South Africa
‘NEF Global Gathering 2018’
26 – 28, March, 2018
Kigali Convention Centre, Rwanda
‘Sharing Science Towards New Horizons’
9 – 14 July, 2018
EuroScience Open Forum Toulouse, France