AAAS and the Science Advisory Council of the Presidency of Mexico signed an agreement in a ceremony at the council’s headquarters, above, pledging to work together to connect scientists with policies globally, improve science communication and integrate science into policymaking. | Photo Courtesy of Consejo Consultivo de Ciencias (CCC)
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has signed a memorandum of understanding with Mexico’s leading scientific organization, pledging to foster scientific collaborations and forge innovative ways to integrate scientific knowledge into policymaking in both countries.
The outreach comes at a time of strained relations between the administration of President Donald Trump and Mexican authorities over the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, immigration policies and Trump’s pledge to erect a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
“We stand with you, our Mexican neighbors as you recover, our hearts go out, our support goes out to you as you rebuild after a series of natural disasters,” said Rush Holt, AAAS CEO and executive publisher of the Science family of journals in opening remarks at a two-day scientific exchange to explore alliances between AAAS and Mexico’s scientific community.
“Natural disasters remind us why we are here. Our vulnerabilities underscore the importance of working together. Emergencies and disasters, and less urgent natural changes and challenges, the preparation for them, the response to them, underscore the need for good science policy connections at the local and national levels,” added Holt, referencing the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico, including Mexico City, on Sept. 19 and the 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico’s Pacific Coast two weeks earlier.
On Oct. 19, Holt and Arturo Menchaca Rocha, head of Mexico’s Presidential Science Advisory Council, signed the agreement between AAAS and Mexico’s science advisory council during an evening ceremony in Mexico City.
The agreement represents the first step in extending scientific collaborations between AAAS and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s scientific advisory council. The aim is to help grow international scientific partnerships, enhance communications about scientific endeavors and provide guidance on how to build programs to place scientists in positions that deepen the role of scientific knowledge in policymaking.
AAAS CEO Rush Holt, left, and Arturo Menchaca, head of Mexico’s Presidential Science Advisory Council, reach an agreement to build scientific collaborations between both countries. | Tom Wang/AAAS
The document also provides an instrument for further cooperation between the two organizations, including joint workshops on how to help science inform policymaking and educational opportunities about the field of science diplomacy, the memorandum of understanding states.
As part of the new alliance, AAAS and the Scientific and Technological Advisory Forum of Mexico, an independent advisory board that reports on science, technology and innovation developments in Mexico, are already working together to translate into Spanish an online science diplomacy course produced by the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy in order to better enable scientists throughout Latin America to participate.
The signing ceremony followed an inaugural meeting, called the “Mexican Congress on Science-Informed Policy: Enhancing the Science-Policy Interface,” that featured representatives of AAAS; Mexico's Presidential Science Advisory Council; the Office of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Presidency of Mexico; the Scientific and Technological Advisory Forum of Mexico, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Latin America’s largest research institution.
Speaking before the Mexican Congress on Science-Informed Policy on Oct. 19, Holt posited that scientists are well-equipped, with their devotion to the scientific method, to contribute to the framing of public policies. Scientists, he said, gather evidence, ensure it guides decisions, keep an open mind and invite the contributions and critiques of others. “That way of doing science can be relevant and powerful and incredibly useful to public policymaking,” he said.
Holt underscored the importance of giving science a voice in the policymaking arena and ensuring that policymakers understand that “science is a process toward better, and better understanding of evidence and more and more reliable knowledge.”
“What we need are two things: a place at the policymaking table for the scientific perspective, and, secondly, we need an understanding by the advisers and those who receive the advice that science cannot hope or expect to provide the fixed, immutable truth that is clearly applicable in a particular policy or regulation,” Holt said. “Science can inform policy and regulation. It cannot dictate policy and regulation.”
[Associated image: The sweeping view of Mexico City from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where sessions were held during two-day meeting relating to science-informed policies. | Photo by IISD/ENB | ENB]