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Fourth Annual International Conference of African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI): Science Academies as Partners for Improving the Impact of Policies in Africa November 4 th -5 th 2008, Royal Society, London. Why would a Government want Independent Advice?.

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Fourth Annual International Conference of African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI):

Science Academies as Partners for Improving the Impact of Policies in Africa

November 4th -5th 2008, Royal Society, London.

Why would a Government want Independent Advice?

Patrick Amuriat Oboi, MP

Member Committee on science and technology

Parliament of Uganda

presentation outline
Presentation Outline
  • Introduction
  • Government and the running of the state
  • The Need for Evidence Based Advice
  • Why would a Government want Independent Advice?
  • Challenges
  • Conclusion
  • The actual reality is that the world is changing at a rapid pace, driven by science and technology,
  • Current disparity between the developed and developing nations is due to level and extent of application of scientific and technological capacities and innovation.
  • There are emerging challenges that threaten the very existence of humanity;

Climate change, energy shortage, emerging complex diseases, food shortage etc


Attempts by Africa to attain higher economic growth have so far not been entirely successful, with member states only attempting to attain macro-economic stabilization.

  • Developed countries, on the basis of evidence based knowledge-adopted deliberate policies that led to sizeable investment in human resource capacity development for research and development.
  • Governments engaged in policies that emphasised public- private partnership.
  • Owing to the evident disparity between developed and developing countries and changing global challenges, there is a need for Governments especially in the developing world to engage in policies that are guided by independent advice.
government and the running of the state
Government and the running of the state
  • A government may be defined an organization, that is the authority of a political unit or the ruling power in a political society, and the apparatus through which a government body functions and exercises authority.
  • Governance describes the process of making and implementing decisions, and “good’ governance describes an ideal in which public institutions conduct affairs and manage public resources in an impartial, effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent manner.
  • For the smooth running of a country, there has to be a robust government which is charged with the cardinal responsibility of providing for the needs and well being of the citizenry of that country in the most efficient and effective manner. In carrying out their functions leaders in government will ensure that they meet the aspirations of the people they lead.

Democracy as opposed to a dictatorship or any other form of governance is a form of management in which the supreme power is held completely by the people under a free electoral system within that unit. Most countries globally practice democracy with varying degrees of meticulousness.

  • The government of Uganda has a structure of Administration at both the National and Local or Municipal levels with leaders at these different levels carrying out specific functions in different jurisdictions. These administrative demarcations are establish under the 1995 constitution of Uganda.
government at the national level
Government at the National Level
  • The structure of government at the national level ensures the smooth running of the entire country. At this level the structure of administration in Uganda is very much similar to that of other democratic countries. This model of government has a structured composed of three distinct, independent and constitutionally established arms; the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.

The Executive arm of government with the President as chief Executive is composed of the cabinet and is charged with the responsibility among others to determine, formulate and implement the policy of government. They are also under constitutional obligation to perform other functions that will be conferred by the constitution or any other subordinate law.

  • The Legislative arm of government is composed of members of Parliament both elected and ex-officio and is headed by the Speaker of Parliament. The responsibilities of Parliament entail making legislation on any matter for the peace, order, development and good governance of the country, representation and oversight. Parliament shall also protect the constitution and promote democratic governance of the country.
  • The Judiciary headed by the Chief Justice has the responsibility of interpretation of the laws of the country. This arm ensures fairness and justice is done to all persons irrespective of social or economic status.
government at the local level
Government at the Local Level
  • These are set up at district level down to the villages. Districts as well as sub-county level of administration have different levels of decision making responsibilities. The district councils for example can pass ordinances for enforcement within the confines of the district.Itshould beclear by now that the running of government is an enormous responsibility and that decisions have to be taken at all levels of the strata of leadership in the country.
  • It is necessary to note that in order to be elected into any elective office in Uganda, one does not necessarily need to be an expert in any field of study.
the need for independent advice
The Need for Independent Advice
  • Independent advice needs to have the force of evidence
  • For the purposes of this paper, the focus will be Evidence Based Science Advice as opposed to advice in general terms. Before embarking on the reasons government would want evidence advice, it is only proper that we review our understanding of what Evidence based Science advice really means.
what is evidence based science advice
What is evidence-based science advice?
  • Evidence-based science advice is a conclusion or recommendation about a particular subject based upon the investigative assessment of existing evidence from relevant fields of inquiry and the application of the laws of scientific reason.
  • Those individuals who conduct such an assessment collectively represent scientific disciplines relevant to the subject of investigation. The product of the investigation is subjected to an independent external review to verify that the conclusions drawn are valid and relevant.

The evidence gathered in the process of scientific inquiry is specifically derived using standard procedures and criteria to minimize the influence of bias in the experimenter when testing hypotheses. The result and methodologies of such an investigation are also carefully documented so that other investigators can independently verify that the results are accurate and reliable

science academies and evidence based advice
Science Academies and Evidence-Based Advice

who should offer evidence based advice?

It can be argued that evidence based policy advice

  • can be offered by anyone competent in the scientific method and laws of reasoning.
  • Is most powerful when developed in a consensus manner that draws upon the special competencies of people trained in a range of disciplines relevant to the subject of investigation.

While many elements within a nation can produce credible scientific advice, a science academy can do so with a unique level of credibility due to its independence from non- scientific influences, the degree of access to leading experts and scientific literature, and the use of rigorous consensus and external review methods.

  • It is proper that those conducting the assessment are carefully screened to minimize political and ideological influences or biases and financial and other forms of conflict of interest.
  • Science Academies have a niche as the most competent in informing policy with scientific advice of a nation.
whom should academies of sciences advice
Whom Should Academies of Sciences Advice
  • Evidence based scientific advice from an Academy can be targeted at all elements of society. While typically advice is sought from an Academy with respect to a nation’s most serious or urgent policy challenges, Academies should consider that their functions includes service to individuals, industry, the educational community, nongovernmental organizations, and donor, as well as government. An Academy that releases its advice to not only sponsors but also to the general public fosters democratic processes through providing information important to public debate. This advice is guided not by personal opinions or gains but by the scientific merit of the available research.
why would a government want independent advice
Why Would a Government Want Independent Advice?
  • As has been observed from above, the task of running Government can prove complex and very challenging and requires a collective effort and diverse human resource to manage or help to manage.
  • All policy makers stand to gain from the advice provided by neutral, diverse, apolitical committees of experts who have gone through the religious ‘academy process’ . Policymakers in the executive branch, legislative branch, and policymakers at the state or municipal levels can benefit from academy advice, including the following specific areas:
evidence based advice for national policy design and decision making
Evidence Based Advice for National Policy Design and Decision Making

Evidence-based scientific advice to government is necessary for optimizing the effectiveness of decisions-including laws, regulations, programs, and policies.

  • Evidence based advice when applied in the context of policy- and decision making in government, can be understood as information or knowledge which is helpful in clarifying, buttressing, or even challenging a particular policy-position. It is therefore important that arising from this advice, governments are assisted in informing political decisions and therefore political course of action. It is therefore a logical argument that the use of research-based evidence, whether statistical or narrative, will serve to strengthen a policy proposition

Evidence based advice can also help to entrench policy-decisions, both enriching the process and, probably legitimising the decisions taken. Owing to this, it would be ideally reasonably for policymakers to insist that no policy decision is justified without a strong evidence base to substantiate it.

evidence based advice for resource allocation
Evidence Based Advice for Resource Allocation
  • Well developed laws, regulations, programs, and policies are necessary to provide a country with a road map for its development. It is obvious that no government can have all the resources that it desires for the well being of all its citizens. Proper resource allocation therefore remains critical to the growth of any nation.
  • It can be argued in this paper that strong laws, regulations, programs, and policies are the cornerstone for resource mobilization and utilization, and therefore if well formulated on the basis of evidence based knowledge, can ensure that finite assets (often from the national treasury) available are rationally and optimally used. So long as policymakers are well informed, prioritization can prove easy.
evidence based advice as a tool of persuasion lobbying
Evidence Based Advice as a Tool of Persuasion/ Lobbying
  • Many major donors and international lending institutions are increasingly basing aid and loans on the condition that reforms ensuring good governance are undertaken.
  • Tools that reinforce effective decision formulation and implementation – such as evidence based scientific advice – will contribute to improving governance and gaining access to limited development assistance resources.
  • For developing countries to remain competitive before development partners therefore it is necessary for them to develop tools based on evidence based advice.
evidence based advice as a planning tool
Evidence Based Advice as a Planning Tool
  • Evidence based advice can be used as a planning and an economic development input. As planning tools information and data which is evidence based generated should be available to planners and decision makers to enable them develop strategies, design plans and conceive decisions that facilitate intervention of Science and Technology in the national development processes.
  • The government of Uganda is adopting an approach to decision policy making on issues has been particularly vocal on this subject. It can be projected that practice of evidence based policy will gain increasing attention in the foreseeable future both in Uganda just is like the case in other developing countries.
evidence based advice as an aid to program implementation
Evidence Based Advice as an aid to Program Implementation
  • In the implementation of government programs, the information available to implementers needs to be factual and based on evidence, for the implementers to use well informed approaches to implementation.

e.g The PEAP (poverty Eradication Action Plan) which is a framework to guide the public to eradicate poverty is a strategy that the government of Uganda has used for some time now. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which represent a set of global development targets and priorities stand out as Government of Uganda commitment to her citizens. These framework documents require the force of clear understanding that would enable policymakers to understand what they are dealing with and how to most efficiently and efficiently deal with them.

  • It follows therefore, that evidence based advice has a contribution to make in the success of the implementation of development strategies

Studies in Cameroon elucidating the link between goiter and iodine deficiency resulted in new regulations requiring industry to iodine salt.

  • Based on advice from U.S. National Academies’ Institute of Medicine report, the guidelines for the US Women Infants -Children; [WIC] food assistance program are now being revised to better align with nutritional requirements of these vulnerable groups (pregnant and lactating women, infants and children under 5). Food assistance programs are particularly politicized in the US because of pressures by food commodity groups
  • An institute of medicine committee found inadequate evidence to either support or reject a causal relationship between exposure to thimersol, a mercury compound used as a preservative in some vaccines, and neuro developmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and language and speech delays – a purported relationship that had been widely disseminated by the media

A committee was formed at the institute of medicine to review data evaluating the efficacy and safety of single dose nevirapine and short course zidovudine regimens for preventing mother to child transmission of HIV infection (HIVNET 012 study). The committee found no reason to retract the publications or alter the conclusions of the HIVNET 012 study.

  • International organizations and world leaders are being encouraged to contribute to a newly created global subsidy that makes “artemisinin– combination therapies “available to all malaria sufferers for roughly the same cost as the single dose therapies. This” subsidy” fund is the result of recommendations from an institute of medicine committee addressing the economies of malaria.
  • Home grown examples include research partly conducted in Uganda proved that incidence of HIV/AIDS infection of circumcised adults was less than in the case of uncircumcised males.

Budgetary Limitations

  • Generally scientific research that would generate evidence based information can be costly and may take a very long time for their benefits when they come, to be realized. In developing countries like Uganda, occurrence of floods, food and water shortage, outbreaks of infectious diseases and the short and long term effects HIV/AIDS and internal conflict, will always find resources ahead of scientific research.

Getting Governments to Act:

  • Independent advice however convincing may be may not impact on policy if the policymakers do not embrace it. Person(s) offering independent advice many times are not the same as those who cause the advice to be utilized for the well being of society.

Information Flow Difficulties

  • With the revolution in communication created by the use of the internet in recent years, the potential for increased access to information and opportunities to disseminate research findings across borders is growing very fast. Through this scientist can effectively engage colleagues and policymakers can be brought on board on issues that impact on policy. However, this revolution has brought forth unlimited access even to websites that may not provide credible information. This may not only spread incorrect conclusions but conflict with evidence that would otherwise have positively supported policy and decision making.
  • African Science Academies and other organizations offering independent advice have an evident role to play in advancing national socioeconomic aspirations. To fully apply their potential, the Academies should be effectively linked into government policy implementation framework both at macro and micro levels. Their programs and activities should be designed more and more to complement rather than compete with those of government ministries and institutions.

At the broadest level, ASADI can contribute to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of key policy decisions, which can in turn contribute to development goals, such as improved human health. ASADI can promote the development process of Africa by strengthening the physical and intellectual infrastructure of science Academies and its staff and by increasing the academies’ capacity to interact with its government. ASADI can also facilitate interactions among African academies which: (1) helps Academies learn through the successes and failures of other Academies; and (2) promotes educational opportunities offered by more advanced African Academies of science

  • The current buoyancy of African Academies participating in ASADI is an output of the effort and funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and this is finite. Now is the time to think about the sustainability of the programs that ASADI is rolling in terms of financing.