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The Global Knowledge Dialogue for Asia and the Pacific rallies ISC Members around planetary health

Participants from 31 countries came together in Kuala Lumpur on 6 October for the second instalment of the ISC’s Global Knowledge Dialogue series, and the first to be held in Asia and the Pacific.

Long read, 10 minutes

Jointly hosted by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and the Regional Focal Point of Asia and the Pacific, the event saw 150 participants contribute to topics such as mission science for sustainability, interdisciplinary health and living within planetary boundaries, addressing the SDGs through science advice and diplomacy, AI and a breakout session on building the voice of science in the region

Mme Hazami Habib, CEO of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia opened the dialogue, noting its key theme of Mobilizing science to collaborate for global planetary health and introducing delegates to the idea of a “postnormal world”.

“In today’s post normal era we need to mobilize and trailblaze science to address connections between human civilization and planetary health that are dependent on rapidly evolving natural systems needing the wise stewardship of the planet”.

Mme Hazami Habib, CEO of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia

Tengku Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen, President of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, elaborated on this idea of a postnormal world in his speech which moved delegates and set the tone for thought provoking panel sessions and broader dialogue throughout the day.

“We live in a post normal world, where transformative forces  produce great uncertainties and complexities, leading to a chaotic and contradictory set of life-changing conditions. Human activities and man-made materials have implicated the world on a greater scale than the world has ever experienced before. The challenges that we face during these postnormal times cannot be resolved with existing tools. They require new modes of thinking and new ways of doing things. We need a postnormal science if we want to truly address the serious threats and challenges that confront human life”.

Tengku Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen, President of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia

Dr. Frances Separovic, Foreign Secretary of the Australian Academy of Science and representing the president of the Academy, Professor Chennupati Jagadish, continued the call for collaboration.

“Between all our member organizations from the Asia Pacific, our collective knowledge and capability is both diverse and immense, and today marks a day when we will share that knowledge and those insights. I am excited about how we can harness this and collaboratively advance the interests of our region, and our influence, into the broader global agenda.

Dr. Frances Separovic, Foreign Secretary of the Australian Academy of Science

The Deputy Minister for Science and Technology, Yang Berhormat Datuk Arthur Joseph Kurup, addressed delegates during the opening session, noting the close collaboration with the Academy of Sciences Malaysia. He took  the opportunity to share new initiatives from the Malaysian Government such as its hydrogen economy roadmap charting its mission to have more renewable energy sources,  and the development of its National Planetary Health Action Plan to mainstream planetary health in national plans and policy, reflecting the country’s commitment to ensuring balanced and sustainable development.

“Strategic alliance and collaboration will help create global solutions for global challenges urging partners to make continues contributions through international cooperation”.

Yang Berhormat Datuk Arthur Joseph Kurup, Deputy Minister for Science and Technology, Malaysia

ISC President, Sir Peter Gluckman and ISC CEO Dr. Salvatore Aricò presented updates to delegates on the ISC’s progress since the Mid-Term Meeting of Members held in May 2023 in Paris, with the ISC President particularly noting progress in building sustained relationships with UN agencies and the multilateral system, including the opening of the ISC UN Office in New York, the joint secretariat responsibilities the ISC has with UNESCO for the Group of Friends for on Science for Action hosted by UN Member States, the UNDP on the future of human development and the issues around polarization in society, the WHO and youth mental health, to name a few.

“This is what we need to do on your behalf for the science that you do to be better incorporated into the complex policy processes which are never linear and require constant reconfiguration of relationships”.

Sir Peter Gluckman, President, ISC

Advancing planetary health in the multilateral space

Dr. Aricò led an expert panel of distinguished speakers addressing the challenges of the SDGS. Experts included Dr. Asma Ismail, Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and Chair of the National Planetary Health Action Plan, Professor Huadong Guo, Director-General of the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals and Mme Anne McNaughton, Senior Lecturer in Law a t the Australian National University.

Dr. Ismail continued the dialogue from the Deputy Science Minister, pointing out that Malaysia’s new National Planetary Health Action Plan which works towards achieving the SDGs, will translate into significant shifts in how government agencies work in collaboration with the quadruple helix, breaking silos and linking policies so that they protect humanity and the planetary ecosystem that we depend upon.

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Professor Guo reminded delegates of the challenges that SDGs face, including lack of data, insufficient research or indicator systems and uneven development in regional areas. As head of the International Research Center of Big Data for the SDGs, Professor Guo posed the question “Without data, how can we monitor the SDGs effectively”?

Anne McNaughton spoke to the importance of international agreements and their binding nature in setting benchmarks for moral imperatives, highlighting that such agreements, especially those relating to trade and economic agreements, are increasingly becoming instruments of foreign policy, yet are engaging Member States in their domestic settings. The challenge, according to McNaughton, is to ensure that academies of science, research institutions and our collective knowledge can then participate in that domestic science-for-policy nexus.

Dr Aricò reiterated that this was a great example of Dr Ismail’s points on the nexus between academia, industry, government and community, and Professor Guo’s point of view on the importance of data, in bringing national, international and intergovernmental processes together to promote scientific evidence in policymaking.

The first session ended with Professor Baojing Gu, the inaugural winner of the Frontiers Planet Prize, who wowed the ISC audience with his research on the three reasons why we need to reduce nitrogen pollution, citing the protection of biodiversity, the slowing of climate change and the reduction in air pollution.  The Frontiers Planet Prize and the ISC have ongoing partnership promoting the Planet Prize, working in partnership to capitalize on scientific knowledge for sustainability, with a focus on knowledge generated in the Global South and from a wide variety of actors.

The Frontiers Planet Prize generously supported the ISC delegates’ dinner the evening before the Global knowledge Dialogue, viewing an online presentation by Jean-Claude Burgelman about the Prize.

Exploring the risk factors of decision-makers in the region

Dr. Vineeta Yadav, the 2022 laureate for the Stein Rokkan prize, opened Part II, Opportunities and Challenges for the 2030 Agenda through scientific diplomacy, scientific advice and new technologies with a thought-provoking session focusing on the comparative study of political parties, and business and religious interest-groups in developing countries and the consequences of their interactions for governance, policy outcomes and democracy. Dr Yadav put out a challenge to national academies and associations of science in disseminating information about the networking and funding opportunities available for grants between Global North and South scholars, as very few researchers from Global North took the opportunity to collaborate with their peers in the Global South.

“Think about the regulations around AI or decision-making processes around climate change. These are risky policies for decision-makers, and if you look at India and Pakistan as examples, the same policy may not make it, so figuring out what kind of policies can be marketed to policy-makers with different risk profiles, and that’s just one trait,  would help us build a strong advocacy framework for skeptical politicians and skeptical publics”.

Dr. Vineeta Yadav, Stein Rokkan prize laureate for 2022

The session allowed for three respondents, Malaysian researchers and members of INGSA, Dr. Abhi Veerakumarasivam and Dr. Chan Siok Yee, and Ms Tiziana Bonapace from the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to explore the issues presented by Dr Yadav. They  provided thoughts on the decolonization of science, the ethical dilemmas around planetary health versus human health, and the systemic local root causes of social justice as a response to the 2030 Agenda narrative within the framework of freedom and rights.

The Centre for Science Futures

Dr. Mathieu Denis took the opportunity to present the Council’s new think tank, the Centre for Science Futures, including the new advisory council, highlighting projects such as the future of transdisciplinary research and research evaluation, encouraging ISC Members in the Asia and Pacific region to participate in the debates around these critical issues. Dr. Denis also discussed the fast-paced nature of AI, citing the need for a dedicated dialogue on the way science is organized for scientific ecosystems and collaboration, including with the private sector.

Regional decision-making for science

The afternoon session considered the ISC in a regional context, inviting delegates to look at key priorities areas for strengthening science systems and the role of an ISC regional focal point. Led by Dr. Petra Lundgren, the Director of the Regional Focal Point for Asia and the Pacific, regional and international representatives from the ISC Fellowship, INGSA and the UNESCO Unitwin for Science Communication for the Public Good.

Panel members, Professor Zakri Abdul Hamid, Dr. Orakanoke Phanraksa, Professor Rémi Quirion and Professor Sujatha Raman were asked to share their thoughts on key pathways to decision-making in the region, and who actually had a voice at the table in those processes. In keeping with the themes from the previous session on risk-taking by politicians, Zakari shared his frustrations that as a scientific community, we needed to expand our reach beyond dialogues with just our community, and bring in policy-makers, politicians and other stakeholders to build trust and relationships that strive towards planetary health. All speakers referred to the importance of trust in science and building trust, with Dr. Phanraksa noting the critical relationships between young academies and their senior academies in strengthening the voice of science, and Professor Raman continuing the idea of postnormal times and being radical in how we respond to these times, being true to realities on the ground and building accessible knowledge in our science systems for policy-makers through public engagement.

The session ended with Global Knowledge Dialogue delegate participating in a group session, responding to questions on how we raise the voice of science in the region, and how the ISC through its Regional Focal Point could consider resourcing mission science to address the issues tackled throughout the day.

Anna-Maria Arabia, CEO of the Australian Academy of Science then presented delegates’ findings in the last session, Next steps for the Regional Focal Point of Asia and the Pacific – turning dialogue into action. Amplifying the scientific voice in policy-making and ensuring the role of media in science communication; science diplomacy including the potential establishment of an ISC-INGSA science diplomacy programme; promoting and strengthening representation of scientists from the region in both regional and global multilateral processes; ensuring responsible use of AI for the public good; and building capacity in education, research and fostering connections between ISC Members were seen as top priorities for the region in order to win on the 2030 Agenda and planetary health.

Heartfelt responses from the ISC’s Governing Board and Academy leaders

The ISC’s Governing Board members, Professor Motoko Kotani, ISC Vice President for Science and Society, and Professor Mei-Hung Chui, member of the Committee for Outreach and Engagement, along with Peter Gluckman, Salvatore Aricò, Frances Separovic and Hazami Habib took to the stage for final comments, all agreeing that the the Dialogue had been a grand success, filled with hope from the scientific community.

Salvatore Aricò thanked again the organizing committee, hosts the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and the Australian Academy of Science through its Regional Focal Point. Peter Gluckman made closing comments that again encouraged young academies and associations to join the ISC to ensure a strong and effective voice for science working at every level – local, regional and global. He added that he and the Governing Board are committed to creating a global voice of and for science.

Gluckman ended his remarks by expressing that as a scientific community, we must also accept humility as conveyors and producers of robust knowledge, but that science isn’t the only producer of that knowledge, and that science cannot answer everything. He noted that we heard the word “trust” a lot during our meeting, being raised most recently by Professor Kotani and others throughout the day. He encouraged the community to produce trustworthy knowledge, and convey it in a trustworthy way, within our multiple knowledge systems.

The dialogue ended on a high note, with the newly established Advisory Council for the Regional Focal Point for Asia and the Pacific introduced to delegates, committing to turn their ideas from the day into actions the coming years.


Two open workshops were held before the Global Knowledge Dialogue on:

  1. Freedoms and responsibilities in science
  2. Young academies and associations

Please check their links in the coming days for the aide memoires on these engaging roundtables, which included global hybrid audiences.


  1. To see the videos (coming soon) and the presentations, visit the Global Knowledge Dialogue home page.
  2. Sign up for Asia and the Pacific newsletters.
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