The world’s most pressing challenges — whether climate change, population growth, infectious diseases or massive inequalities of resources – will only be met successfully if science is brought to the task far more effectively, according to a United Nations report drafted by a team at UMass Boston. Science is an essential component of “policies that are clear, agreed-upon, and powerful,” says the report; it should be integral to virtually all high-level policy-making, and not be an occasional add-on. The report presents the findings of the 26-member Scientific Advisory Board established by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon three years ago. It was presented to him in New York on Sunday.
The United Nations is uniquely positioned to perform an essential role as a global convener, as the sponsor of big-picture planning and goal-setting, and as a facilitator of productive interactions among scientists, policy-makers and society at large.
The 34-page report, “The Future of Scientific Advice to the United Nations,” was drafted by a team from the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies that included Professor Maria Ivanova and Distinguished Visiting Fellow Susan Avery, who are both members of the Scientific Advisory Board, along with Senior Fellow Robert L. Turner and McCormack Dean David W. Cash.
Ivanova said, “The board, in its first three years, has examined issues of global importance including poverty, biodiversity loss, climate change, threats to health, education, inequality, and the future of the world’s ocean. Our summary report documents why science must be at the center of all efforts to confront such challenges. The Board certainly intends this report to be a landmark and to urge global policy-makers to move in that direction.
“I know that my colleagues on the Board and at the U.N. are grateful to the McCormack Graduate School for its role in drafting the report, and I personally want to thank Dean Cash for the outstanding support he provided.”
Cash added, “When Professor Ivanova first suggested a role for McCormack in drafting a report of such global significance, we jumped at the opportunity. We were able to persuade one of her colleagues on the Board, Dr. Susan Avery, president emerita of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and another extraordinarily talented scientist, to join the team.”
Avery spent the summer as a McCormack Graduate School Distinguished Visiting Fellow working on the report and collaborating on other projects.
“It has been a pleasure working with the McCormack Graduate School in preparing this report” commented Avery, “The final report reflects the deep and animated discussions we had in our meetings of the science advisory board on challenges that confront our planet and global society. The science-policy-society interface, a core component of the McCormack School philosophy, is critical to finding solutions to these global challenges.”
Bob Turner, a senior fellow at McCormack, was approached to help with the drafting, and the project was able to come to fruition.
“More than a dozen drafts later, and efforts including a trip by all three to the Board meeting in Trieste, Italy in May, as well as revisions suggested by nearly all of the 25 Board members, the report was finished,” said Turner, “This has been a significant project for the school, one that we feel is right in our wheelhouse. We are the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. No one has a more global perspective than the United Nations. We are extremely proud of the many McCormack initiatives in countries around the world, including Professor Ivanova’s strong presence at the UN. We are a policy school, and our namesake, John W. McCormack, was an extraordinarily powerful and successful policy-maker in Congress. So we feel this is right in line with our mission, and our tradition. My congratulations to Professor Ivanova and the team.”