Scientists and MPs agree: it's good to talk
[NAIROBI] Improving links between scientists and parliamentarians will move science and technology (S&T) closer to the heart of East African policy making, agreed researchers and members of parliament at a workshop in Nairobi, Kenya.
The role of Parliamentary Offices of Science and Technology (POSTs) and a pairing scheme between members of parliament (MPs) and scientists was discussed at the two-day workshop last week (29–30 June).
It was agreed at the workshop — organised by the Kenya National Academy of Sciences with the support of Royal Society of the United Kingdom — that clear mechanisms for interaction between stakeholder institutions (academies, parliamentary committees on S&T, and relevant ministries) must be developed and strengthened.
Bernard Aduda, professor of physics at the University of Nairobi said the move would take S&T to the heart of policy making and raise socioeconomic development to levels comparative with countries in Asia.
"We need the linkage to enable MPs and scientists to work together so that we can mainstream science, technology and innovation issues in the countries' policy making processes for the socioeconomic benefits of the citizens," he told SciDev.Net.
Aduda, who was on the organising committee for the meeting, said the meeting had concluded that it is extremely necessary for the staff of POSTs to understand S&T and that this be extended to parliamentarians and journalists for competency in science reporting.
It was also agreed that scientists should press parliament for increased resources for science, technology and innovation, according to Aduda.
But it was emphasised that any such lobbying should be kept separate from moves to provide parliamentarians with additional sources of scientific advice.
Kenyan MP, Ruth Oniango, former professor of food science and nutrition at Jomo Kenyatta University, stated that it was time for scientists to stop looking at parliament from afar, and to start lobbying MPs for resources.
Anne Snelgrove, MP for South Swindon in the United Kingdom, said MPs and scientists need to communicate for a better understanding of scientific issues and parliamentary business and that together they can boost support for science, technology and innovation development.
"It is important to have an independent organisation bringing the MPs and scientists together so that both groups are trusted without any political interference," she said.
The workshop recommended that steps be taken to explore the creation of POSTs comparable to the body established by the United Kingdom parliament.