A key objective of this project is to explore opportunities for global science advice, in the context of the SDGs, and how academies in particular can play a more active role. But do we know enough to be able to do this?
This was the task for the second Working Group meeting held in Paris on 1-2 February 2017, co-organised with the Académie des Sciences - with thanks to its President, Professor Sébastien Candel, and his team for their kind hospitality, and the Carnegie Foundation of New York for its generous sponsorship.
The Group heard from Dr Flavia Schlegel (Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO); Mr John Crowley (Chief of Section of Research, Policy and Foresight and deputy for Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO); Sir Peter Gluckman (Chair, International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) and Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand); Dr Heide Hackmann (Co-Chair, 10 Member Group supporting the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) and Executive Director, International Council for Science (ICSU)) and her colleague Anne-Sophie Stevance (ICSU Science Officer).
In addition to this oral evidence, the project draws on a survey of the academies (senior and young) which seeks to understand how they see their role in supporting the SDGs, what they have been doing to-date, and how they think they can best contribute in future. The survey has highlighted a number of questions (for example, is there an element of "retrofitting" academy work to policy issues?) which are being followed up with all academies to encourage those who did not originally contribute to do so; to test observations and assumptions; and to build a repository of relevant (inter)academy reports and initiatives. The survey will be posted online on completion. In parallel, to help academies better understand and contribute to support systems for the SDGs, mapping work is being developed into an online navigation tool for the academies and other interested parties.
Whilst the projects are at a relatively early stage, the survey response and wider stakeholder feedback have indicated that this work is both necessary and timely. Senior and young academies alike have shown a willingness to support the SDGs but have indicated the need to promote better awareness and understanding of the systems and coordination mechanisms underpinning them.
Accordingly, a work programme is underway to help (i) raise the academies’ awareness of the SDGs and the UN system supporting them; (ii) raise the profile, and in some cases support, the academies’ science policy work / interest where it is pertinent to the SDGs; (iii) explore opportunities for more active and effective engagement at the national level; and (iv) provide intellectual leadership on how academies may need to adapt to better deliver knowledge that supports the SDGs agenda, and be more resilient and effective to meet 21st Century challenges.