The 2016 INGSA meeting was aimed at taking stock of the current challenges in science advice, policy and implementation in the light of immediate and long-range global challenges through a rich, engaging and provocative set of sessions. The two-day program in Brussels was comprised of keynote and plenary sessions and parallel sessions that were summarized at the end of each day. Through networking receptions and open conversations, there was ample opportunity to have more intimate conversations about policy, science and inclusive innovation.

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From left to right: GYA member Patrizio Antici (Canada), GYA member Koen Vermeir (France), Mr. Robert-Jan Smits, DG for Research and Innovation in European Commission and first recipient of award for Recognition of Lifetime Achievement for European Science and Society GYA Co-Chair Mari-Vaughn Johnson (USA), Sir Peter Gluckman, Chair of INGSA, Chief Science Advisor to PM of NZ, GYA member Bartlomiej Kolodziejczyk (Australia), and GYA member Dmitry Maslov (Russia).

Outcomes:

  1. A GYA-JRC joint partnership proposal for events to improve scientific dialogue between scientists, policy experts and policy makers.
  2. An improved understanding of context specific policy, rooted in evidence, but focused on enhanced engagement and inclusion of various societal groups and stake holders.
  3. Networking with world leaders from low and high income countries engaged in science policy and government advice, and an opportunity to learn from their insight and advice about the role of young scientists in creating a better policy for achieving SDGs.

The big picture perspective on Day 1 focused on the mission and vision of INGSA, the approach and the inherent challenges that science policy makers and policy advisors face. In the first session immediately after the welcome address by the Director General for Research and Innovation Robert-Jan Smits, there was a deeper discussion by Sir Peter Gluckman and thought leaders from around the world on how to build robust science policy that is based on evidence.

At the same time, there was an appreciation that policy makers and politicians often do not speak the same language as scientists, often work at very different timescales than scientists, and must consider non-scientific aspects of society in decision making. With that context, there was also discussion on how to bridge the gap and make science a more useful tool for policy makers. A number of high profile and distinguished speakers spoke on the need for deepening this dialogue including HRH Princess Sumaya of Jordon, Flavia Schlegel of UNESCO and Yuko Harayama from the council of science and technology of Japan.

The conversation on the gap between science and policy and the need for context continued in the subsequent sessions with more evidence, data and identification of barriers and gaps between policy, evidence and broader engagement of scientists.

The parallel sessions on Day 1 ranged across a variety of topics that require immediate multi-pronged action from policy makers and scientists. These topics ranged from climate change and migration to epidemics. The second set of parallel sessions focused on what can be done to improve scientific advice and enhance local technical and policy capacity in low income countries. The parallel sessions included participation from GYA member Connie Nshemereirwe on the panel focused on capacity building for science advice. Additionally, Sameh Soror and Tolu Oni acted as rapporteurs for their parallel sessions.

After a recap on Day 1, the day concluded with an award for Lifetime Achievement for Science and Society to Robert-Jan Smits. The evening reception was an opportunity for a set of informal meetings. During this session, GYA members organized organically and came up with the idea of working with JRC on strengthening the role of young scientists and young scientist academies in improving science advice and bridging the gulf between scientists, scholars, policy experts and policy makers. This conversation led to a longer session that went late into the night and led to a proposal for development of a policy-science curriculum through a series of workshops, which was submitted for consideration to the JRC .

Day 2 started with a session on the approach needed for effective science advice in times of crises. Eva Alisic from the GYA was part of this plenary session and provided a data-driven perspective on the importance of science policy and engagement for crisis management including the current challenge of migrants and refugees. The parallel sessions focused on how to bring various sectors of society together for improved understanding and awareness and how to leverage various indigenous and technological resources for improved dialogue and effective policy. The second part of the parallel sessions also focused on science diplomacy and its inherent challenges as well as the roles scientists and science academies need to play in implementation of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The final session on the second and the last day focused on the road ahead, the inherent promise of science policy and inclusive engagement and the inherent challenges that are associated with socio-political and economic realities.

Overall, the discussions both during and after the sessions, highlighted both the need for and the fundamental challenges of science policy and advice. This was further emphasized during networking receptions and breaks in discussions with global leaders in policy, diplomacy and science advice. The GYA members present understood this critical gap, and the opportunity for young scientists and practitioners to play a role in improving dialogue and creating a common language between various stake holders. The informal conversations and meetings between the GYA members reflected this realization and led to a proposal that was written overnight through the collective efforts of the team. The objective of this proposal was to have collaborative, hands-on events to increase awareness, build bridges of confidence and trust and increase the opportunity for mutual learning between scientists, practitioners, policy makers and policy experts.

Text: Connie Nshemereirwe, Muhammad Hamid Zaman, and Mari-Vaughn Johnson.