Getting across to policymakers

Patrick Kelley and Lauren Alexander Augustine from the US National Academies of science (left) and Jimmy Volmink from ASSAF (right)

ASADI’s sixth annual meeting is in full swing. The energy-focused part of the conference will take off this evening but, today, the focus of discussion is academies’ role in evidence-based policymaking.

The session started off with some best practice on how science academies can make their voices heard and get their message across with maximum impact.

Borrowing a term from the world of marketing, academies were told to think of their academy’s reputation as a ‘brand’. For instance, Coca Cola does not keep its huge share of the cold drinks market by simply relying on its reputation or on single adverts. Coke branding is visible everywhere, constantly reminding us to choose it. This should give food for thought for academies wanting to build their brand.

Patrick Kelley of the United States Academy of Sciences said the strength of the academy brand is that it is authoritative and home grown, contextual and grounded, candid and apolitical.

African academies must nurture their brands, Kelley said. One way to do this is to promote the appointment of scientists to political positions. Scientists who go into politics will have an understanding of the value of the academy brand, and this will raise the academy’s profile in policymaking circles.

The timing of advice is also crucial for its take-up by policymakers, Kelley added. “If you want high uptake, you have to be timely.”

Munyaradzi Makoni, freelance journalist for SciDev.Net

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