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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

19 May 2021

ESCAP

Yang saya hormati Professor Satryo Soemantri Brodjonegoro, President of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences,

Professor Yoo Hang Kim, President of Association of Academies & Societies of Sciences in Asia (AASSA),

Distinguished Speakers, Moderators, Participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to address this International Webinar on the topic of Publication and Dissemination of Digital Scholarly Communication.

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is still ravaging across countries in the world including our part of the region, in Asia and the Pacific.

We are witnessing resurgence of local transmission across several large developing and lower-middle income countries due to new variants, which are more infectious and fatal.

The pandemic has triggered one-in-a-century catastrophe for our humanity, widening development fault lines through its extremely disastrous impact on the most vulnerable groups of our societies.

The health, educational and economic crisis are negatively impacting human capital formation and productivity gains, exacerbating poverty, increasing inequality, and reversing hard-won development gains over the decades.

The pandemic has revealed that policymakers must focus on i) public health management in scaling up the provision of vaccines, therapeutics as well as  strengthening the health care system, ii) to recover stronger through inclusive, resilient and sustainable approaches to development policies and programmes.

The promotion of evidence-based policymaking is equally important through sharing of good practices, lessons learned, policy recommendations, technical assistance and capacity development at various levels of governments and scholar’s engagement.

The pandemic has also turned many aspects of our physical lives into a virtual reality and has accelerated a much-needed digital transformation.

The growing importance of digitalization and technology-based innovations are rapidly shaping our interactions and dissemination of knowledge across borders.

Scaling up digital plans is now a must-to-do government investment for enhancing a better crisis preparedness and increase e-resilience in the future.

Our societies have always found new ways of transforming and navigating in times of crises, and this ongoing crisis is not an exception.

We need to constantly reinvent ourselves and turn crisis into an opportunity including by providing fast and reliable linkage between research and evidence-based policy making.

Dear Colleagues and Distinguished Participants,

It is in this context, I would like to highlight three broad priorities to effectively disseminate scholarly products for increasing policy impacts.

First, we need to engage with scholars to promote policy research.

Broadly speaking, by using UNESCAP as good examples, we encourage scholars and experts to join our meetings to cross-fertilize ideas and share their views on addressing policy challenges, sharing best practices across countries and informing lessons learnt on policy areas.

These issues are ranging from macroeconomic policy responses to shocks, global and regional impacts of economic policy spillovers, and national fiscal and monetary policy priorities.

In most of the regional knowledge products, to ensure the rigor and relevance, we have continuously engaged with scholar communities across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

For example, to peer review the initial draft of the 2021 edition of Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, which is UNESCAP’s annual flagship publication, we organized an expert group meeting in 2020.

Last month, as part of outreach activities of this Survey, in collaboration with the Indonesian Economist Association (ISEI), we jointly organized an international seminar to discuss the main messages of the report.

The discussions with scholars also highlighted the need to underscore ambitious and targeted policy measures to ensure that recovery from the pandemic is robust and inclusive, and that a more resilient and sustainable future emerges from this crisis.

In addition to scholars from several Asia-Pacific countries, the seminar was attended by Indonesia’s Central Bank Governor and a Deputy Minister on Economic Planning.

This is an example of how UNESCAP’s analytical work, which benefitted from technical discussions with scholar communities, was fed into policymaking processes.  

Second, we have to develop and support online communities of knowledge with scholars and research institutes.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, all UNESCAP knowledge sharing activities have become fully digital, making them available to a much wider audience.

The digital platform brings researchers and policy makers closer together, as they often get to know each other through participation in online workshops.

Training materials are also now systematically turned into self-paced e-learning courses accessible to everyone for free, with certificates being issued to those who successfully complete the online programmes.

The existence of an online community of knowledge makes it much easier for institution such as us to access the latest knowledge created by members and use it to formulate policy recommendations for countries in Asia and the Pacific.

May I now give you a few more examples. On trade related research, through the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT), we have facilitated research and capacity building on trade-related issues, relying heavily on digital communications.

In another instance, we have also co-organized the very first virtual Policy Hackathon with a wide range of international institutions (WTO, UNCTAD) as well as civil society (CUTS) and academic institutions (e.g. the Singapore Management University).

As a result, we have published online, the best written contributions, in a repository and the top 12 author-contributors were invited to webinar series for policy makers.

Importantly, some scholar’s research papers were published in peer-reviewed journals since this initiative. The material has also now been turned into a Handbook for policy makers and negotiators, with virtual workshops to be organized later this year. 

Similarly, on social development related research, since 2020, we embarked on a collaborative research with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS)-UK to examine the gender aspects of the policy responses to COVID-19 pandemic, and propose a range of policy measures with a view to reduce and redistribute the unpaid care work. 

The research team have completed the Asia-Pacific overview and are now conducting an in-depth analysis of the situation in ASEAN countries, identifying good practices and developing tailored policy recommendations.

All discussions and consultations with the scholars and the wider research community, best practice networks, government counterparts, etc. have taken place virtually, with digital technologies assisting the dissemination of knowledge, e.g. pre-recorded presentation for expert group meetings; presentations provided over the Zoom platform for Ministries of Women in ASEAN countries and other counterparts.

We expect to complete this action-oriented research and publication by October 2021, which will be further disseminated online and through digital social media.

On the Disaster Risk Reduction research and policy formulation, for example, we collaborated with Indian Government think tank, along with BIMSTEC Climate and Weather Centre and SAARC HIV and Tuberculosis Centre to organize a series of digital scholarly communications on managing risks to address the crisis of cascading disasters that are impacting SDG progress.   

More specifically, in consultation with the Inter Academy Partnership (IAP) network, we identified scientists to share their expert opinion in several of the SDG roundtables, representing the academic community.

These examples are important initiatives to develop and support online communities of knowledge with scholars and research institutes to chart a new path to recover better together in Asia and the Pacific.

Third, there is a need to build capacity and access of data and information in a systematic manner, especially for the least developed countries and lower middle-income countries.

We are constantly interacting with scholars to help them access cross-country data and information collected by UNESCAP on national regulations and policies that allow to raise their quality of research outputs.

These data sets are essential tools to the analysis of extreme poverty and inequalities. Furthermore, using big data is also providing new insights into public health situation and economic benefits on a real time basis.

Furthermore, with good data infrastructure and skills, scholars from several developing countries are facilitating the formulation of sound policymaking in times of COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in many least developed countries and lower middle-income countries, due to lack of basic ICT infrastructure and under development of other digital services, the government’s policymaking opportunities and impacts have been underutilized.

For example, we are working closely with research scholars, academics and related stakeholders in improving the quality of statistics in areas such as population and social statistics, disaster-related statistics, agricultural and rural statistics, and gender in environmental statistics.

So, these interactions with network of scholars and institutions have been instrumental in strengthening statistical capacity to produce and disseminate data and information which is the foundation of any good evidence-based policy making.

Dear Colleagues and Distinguished Participants,

In closing, digital communication provides enormous - and still mostly untapped- potential for enhancing scholar-policy maker collaboration and evidence-based policymaking.  

I am very much encouraged to see that the engagement of scholars is taking shape in a more strategic manner.

Through UNESCAP regional platform, we have been fortunate to regularly interact with scholars to scale up knowledge and research support for policymakers in countries across Asia and the Pacific.

I wish you well in your deliberations.

Thank you very much.

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