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  • 'Science meets politics' idea urged for developing world


[BEIJING] Scientists in developing countries have been urged to organise formal events —either nationally or regionally — to bring their concerns directly to the interests of individual politicians.

The aim of such meetings would be to help each side understand the other better.

The proposal was made yesterday (23 June) by Toss Gascoigne, former director of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), to a working symposium in Beijing organised by the Public Communication of Science and Technology Network (PCST).

Gascoigne, who is currently director of the Australian Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, described how FASTS runs annual 'science meets parliament' days.

He emphasised that "it is even more important for parliamentarians in less developed countries to have access to advice from scientists than it is in more developed countries such as Australia".

Under the Australian model, more than 200 scientists and technologists from across the country are brought to the national capital, Canberra, every year for two days of one-to-one discussion with Australian parliamentarians.

One of the benefits of these encounters, said Gascoigne, was that scientists discovered they were often as ignorant about the way that politicians work as politicians were of science.

"Scientists are not always familiar with parliamentary processes," said Gascoigne. And even though many of the issues discussed by politicians are heavily based in science, the latter "are not always familiar with scientific processes and timelines".

He admitted that such an exercise might be too costly for developing countries that are keen to encourage dialogue between scientists and parliamentarians.

An alternative would be to organise meetings between scientists and politicians at a regional level, he said, a process that he was currently exploring with officials in South Africa.

The reduced cost of travel would probably mean that regional meetings are cheaper to organise, said Gascoigne.

"However, they could be just as effective as our meetings in Australia have been in helping to bridge the gulf between scientists and decision-makers."

Click here to view SciDev.Net's coverage of the PCST meeting in Beijing.

Read more about science communication in SciDev.Net's 'E-guide to science communication'

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