Why I look forward to the plenary session on navigating science policy at the plant biology worldwide summit
The science policies made in the United States and other developed countries affect people in developing countries. I remember an encounter my colleagues and I had during my days as a program assistant of OFAB Nigeria, an organization that promotes access to scientific innovation for small-holder farmers in Nigeria. We held a workshop with farmers and policy makers on understanding the concept of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and why access to GMO seeds should be created for Nigerian famers. During the Q &A session, a policy maker, (names withheld) asked if we say GMOs are so good, why then do countries like the US campaign against them or countries like those in Europe ban them.
We knew there were various ways to answer this question. So, we responded by citing examples of policies that have been made for GMOs, as well as all policy-making organizations and scientific bodies in both regions that have attested to the safe use of GM crops for both human health and the environment. We told the success story of farmers who are already growing these crops and highlighted the differences in economy and need for the crops in US, Europe and Nigeria, knowing that majority of GMO crops are used for animal feed in Europe.
Despite the fact that we had good answers for this policy maker, he still wasn’t convinced. The topic of conversation was completely shifted from what this technology could do for small holder farmers (some of who were present in the room) to the policies that are being made by US and Europe for Americans and Europeans.
Why am I telling this story? Science policies made in developed countries directly and indirectly affect policies made in Nigeria and other developing countries. Policy makers look up to the decisions taken in developed countries to influence/inform their decisions. That is why it’s imperative to apply scientific reasoning and not politics while making policies about science in the US.
For this reason, I am excited and eagerly looking forward to attending the plenary symposium on science policy at the Plant Biology 2020 Worldwide Summit. Most especially, I look forward to the talk by Rob Horsch, former Deputy Director for Agricultural Research and Development from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I hope to learn more about how innovation drives progress and good policy. I strongly believe that understanding how policies are made will better equip us as science advocates and communicators to explain our science, convey our messages and promote evidence-based decision making.
In addition, April Burke, founder of Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, has an interesting perspective on how “research is and will continue to be an important piece of the US investment strategy”. I look forward to understanding at what stage communication comes in when making investments in science and research, since most of the misinformation comes from not carrying the public along during the early days of developing scientific products.
Overall, the plenary symposia looks very exciting and I look forward to gaining insights on how scientific policies in the US are shaped, to better enhance and contextualize my approach to science communication.
Note: The plenary symposium on science policy will be presented online on July 20, from 10:00 AM–12:20 PM EDT. Registration is free; just click here to join this timely and important session.