An International Call for Evidence-Based Policymaking Brings Together Science Advisors

In Montreal and online, the world’s largest independent gathering of interest groups thought leaders, science advisors to governments and global organizations, researchers, professors, communicators, and diplomats are taking place.

Speakers from over 50 countries, ranging from Brazil to Burkina Faso and Ireland to Indonesia, as well as over 2000 delegates from over 130 countries, will highlight what is truly at stake in the relationship between science and policy-making, both during crises and in our daily lives, at a conference organized by Prof Rémi Quirion, Québec’s Chief Scientist.

This relationship, and the decisions it can influence, affect everything from the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the automobiles we drive, to medical treatments or vaccines we take, and the education we provide to children.

The advantage of the new hybrid and virtual format is that organizers were able to include more speakers, broaden the thematic scope, and offer the conference as free to view online, reaching thousands more people. It was previously held in Auckland 2014, Brussels 2016, Tokyo 2018, and was delayed for one year due to Covid.

The overarching INGSA2021 topic is “Build back wiser: knowledge, policy, and publics in dialogue,” and it examines the intricate interactions between scientists, public policy, and diplomatic relations at local, national, regional, and worldwide levels, especially in times of crisis.

The first three days will focus on anything from real case studies highlighting achievements and failures in our advising systems to how digital technology and artificial intelligence are transforming the profession itself. The last day focuses on how expertise and action in the French-speaking world’s cultural framework encourage collaborations and contribute to economic and social growth. The establishment of a new ‘Francophonie Science Advisory Network’ on September 2 is a highlight of the conference.

The 4th edition of this biennial event stands out because of the unprecedented number of speakers from all continents working at the intersection of research, society, and policy who are willing to speak up.

Organizers were successful in enlisting the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the United Nations Development Programme, UNESCO, and the OECD, among others, in a genuinely “Olympics” approach to bringing all stakeholders on board. The European Commission and Parliament’s in-house science services, as well as various country-specific science advisors, are prominently featured.

This is a rare peek into the science advisory worlds of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, the World Economic Forum, and the Global Young Academy, to mention a few, as organizers nurture educated debate. The program is diverse, ranging from Canadian doctors, educators, and entrepreneurs to philanthropic institutions like the Welcome Trust, as well as Science Europe and media groups.

Two significant draws on the final day dedicated to emphasizing advisory groups operating through French include the International Organization of the Francophonie and a keynote talk by H.E. Laurent Fabius, President of the Constitutional Council of the French Republic.

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