Policymakers urged to include local knowledge in aid projects
SciDev.Net, 12 February 2013

BRIGHTON, UK: The process of providing scientific advice on development policy should involve a wide range of experts, including social scientists and those with local and traditional knowledge, a symposium at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom, was told. The annual symposium of the STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), based at the University of Sussex, UK, was held from 6-7 February 2013 and addressed the global politics of scientific advice, focusing on maintaining credibility across cultures. Several speakers stressed that aid and development programmes designed solely using evidence from the “hard” sciences can overlook local needs. They emphasized that such initiatives can fail to take account of the insights and understanding of the local people intended to be their key beneficiaries. For example, Suman Sahai, a geneticist who runs the Gene Campaign, an organization that protects farmers’ rights in India, said that indigenous science often had as much to offer as modern science, adding that the lack of parity between the two was partly because of the power structure behind new science and technology. “If problem-solving is to be local, the knowledge applied to it needs to be credible locally,” she said. “Solutions do not have to be credible across countries, but only where they are relevant.” Lidia Brito, director of science policy at UNESCO, told the meeting that science advice on development-related issues needed to work across scales “from the global to the local” and to connect up diverse groups of stakeholders. Read the article … Visit the STEPS Symposium website, including links to presentations and resources …