Not much sense of the Pacific

While preparing to cover this conference I came across a reference to a report in the PSA’s Pacific Science journal called ‘Developing a sense of the Pacific’ about an early Pacific Science Congress in 1923.

As I left the conference yesterday, my conclusion was that I hadn’t really got a handle on what it means to be a ‘Pacific scientist’. I wonder whether the attendees had either.

Perhaps my definition of Pacific science differs a little from that of the Pacific Science Association.  I would have liked to have seen more representation of the Pacific Island states (while there was money set aside for travel grants for developing country scientists, a Fijian researcher told me that the costs of her attendance at the conference had been significant).

But however you define it, I felt that I didn’t get my fill of Pacific science. It’s understandable that a conference on the topic of global change would involve a global rather than regional look at the issues, but I would have liked to have heard more about the impacts of biodiversity loss, climate change and food insecurity in the region, and what Pacific scientists can do.

The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and Petronas Towers

The convention centre and the Petronas towers - but where was business? (Credit: Flickr/mollyali)

And for a conference that took place in the shadows of the monuments to business that are the Petronas towers, there was little representation from the private sector. There was much talk of the need to reach out to the media and business but – as far as I could tell – I was the only journalist there and I met just one representative from business.

Researchers can talk to each other about the necessity of working with other stakeholders as much as they like, but if they don’t actually do so, such talk is meaningless. And as I mentioned in a previous post, there was little evidence of lively interdisciplinary debate.

I would have liked to have seen panel discussions where researchers, business representatives and policymakers had debated a topic – surely a good way of opening dialogue and taking up Zakri Abdul Hamid’s challenge for scientists to get more involved in policy.

I’ve said before that the conference is a great opportunity for Pacific scientists to get together, let’s hope that next time they invite some other stakeholders too.

Katherine Nightingale, South-East Asia news editor, SciDev.Net

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