Press Release

Date: Nov. 4, 2008
Contact: William Kearney, Deputy Executive Director &
Director of Media Relations
Office of News and Public Information
U.S. National Academies
202-334-2138; e-mail


Conference Highlights How Stronger Science Academies
Can Strengthen Policymaking in Africa

LONDON -- Leaders of several African science academies are meeting today and tomorrow at the Royal Society, the national science academy of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, to discuss how the independent, expert advice of science academies can be applied to policy and development issues in Africa. The gathering is the fourth annual conference of the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI), a multiyear effort administered by the U.S. National Academies to strengthen the capacity of African academies to deliver such advice.

In the past, many African science academies functioned mainly as honorific societies, but under ASADI they have started to produce peer-reviewed, evidence-based reports intended to inform policy decisions. For example, the Academy of Science of South Africa released a study last year emphasizing that good nutrition is not a substitute for drugs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. And the Uganda National Academy of Sciences recently issued a report calling for greater effort to minimize mosquitoes' resistance to the insecticides sprayed to combat malaria. Forums and workshops also have been convened by African science academies on a number of other issues including biosecurity, blood safety, and health systems.

The importance of bringing scientific findings to bear on government decision making in Africa was noted by ASADI board member Speciosa Wandira, a physician and former vice president of Uganda. "Without scientific advice to inform policy, taxpayer money gets wasted in trial-and-error projects responsible for the debt burden and the trapping of the governed in perpetual poverty and societal conflict," Wandira said.

The purpose of this year's conference, titled Science Academies as Partners for Improving the Impacts of Policies in Africa, is to bring together African science academy leaders and officials from international donor agencies and foundations, along with representatives of African governments, to discuss how local science academies can contribute to policy and development goals. Leaders of several North American and European science academies will also be on hand to discuss the importance of independent scientific advice, international networking among academies, and how intermediary partners might strengthen the policy-advising activities of African academies.

Keynote speeches will be delivered by Patrick Amuriat Oboi, member of parliament, Uganda; Bruce Alberts, professor at University of California, San Francisco, editor in chief of Science, and former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; David Dickson, director of SciDev.Net, London; and Ham-Mukasa Mulira, minister for information and communication technology, Uganda.

ASADI provides intensive capacity-building support to the academies of Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda, and modest support for strategic planning to the academies of Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, and Kenya, as well as the regional African Academy of Sciences. For more information on ASADI, including an agenda for this year's conference, go to . ASADI is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The U.S. National Academies are made up of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council.

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The African Science Academy Development Initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Photos provided by Peter Arnold Inc., U.S. Agency for International Development, World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.

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