Participants at the second annual international conference of the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI), held in Yaounde, Cameroon, often spoke passionately about the role that African science academies can play in informing government policy-making and public discourse with independent, evidence-based advice. Below is a sample of quotes from various conference speakers.
Vincent Titanji, fellow, Cameroon Academy of Sciences, and chair, InterAcademy Advisory Panel for the 2006 ASADI Conference:
"The [African science] academies are putting at the disposal of policymakers their expertise. Individually, none of the academies in Africa may be strong enough [yet] to cover the entire range of every [issue], but because we are in this network [of African science academies], we can draw on resources far and beyond our national boundaries. There are available, tested solutions -- scientifically confirmed -- to many of our problems, but they need to be contextualized. And this is not something that can be done through guessing. That's why the academies are drawing close to the policymakers so that in each particular case we can see how we can best use [available] resources."
Isatou Jallow, chief, gender, mother, and child health service, policy strategy and program support division, U.N. World Food Programme:
"We can start off by saying we don't have [sufficient] resources [to solve food insecurity or other problems facing African nations]. [But] we do have resources. Look at the brainpower within the academies. That's a resource. It's not just about financial resources."
Enriqueta Bond, chair, Board on African Science Academy Development, and president, Burroughs Wellcome Fund:
"We believe that Africa has excellent scientists who can provide advice from their own countries' perspectives that will really influence the policies that they want to develop."
A. Namanga Ngongi, former deputy executive director, World Food Programme:
"National academies can actually work to help their countries, people, and governments to reduce their food inavailability due to food shortages. National academies can support research and studies in areas of food availability, [such as] crop losses, in drought-tolerant crops, in biotechnology, in how to improve productivity…. [and] in the development of credible early-warning systems. [Also], national academies can work with governments because there is always debate on having [for example] community-based safety nets, nutrition programs, and school feeding [programs]. Some neutral body has to carry out studies to show from a cost-benefit analysis point of view the contributions that can be made by such projects."
Robin Crewe, president, Academy of Science of South Africa, and deputy principal for research, University of Pretoria:
"I think our part in this ASADI program has been very significant in allowing us to develop the capacity of our academy to enable it to fulfill its function of providing evidence-based advice to our government and to our members as well.…We've had the opportunity now of contributing a study on journal publication in South Africa, which has been very significant in gaining a response from both our department of education and the department of science and technology."
Catherine Woteki, former undersecretary of food safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and global director of scientific affairs, Mars Inc.:
"Governments underutilize science and the academic community in decisionmaking."
El Hadj Ibrahima Diop, deputy permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences and Technologies of Senegal, and secretary for international affairs, African Academy of Sciences:
"How through our advice we are going to influence policymakers, government, the population [of our respective countries]? By doing this, we are going to improve lives, policies, and sustainable development. But it's not a matter of just sharing our experiences with our [scientific] colleagues. A very important part of our activities should be how to use our research and knowledge and make it useful for our people. Knowing is one thing, but applying is another issue."