Lord Darzi has today urged the scientific community to cross boundaries, promote diversity and engage with policymakers to accelerate innovation.
Co-Director of Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation and incoming President of the British Science Association, Lord Darzi was speaking ahead of his Presidential Address.
As part of his Address, Lord Darzi called for a “relationship reset” between the scientific community and policymakers as the COVID-19 crisis continues to grip the country.
"Britain is a science superpower but at times the relationship between the scientific community and politicians has been strained. We need a ‘relationship reset’ as we enter the next phase of the battle against COVID-19." Prof Ara Darzi Co-Director, IGHI
Lord Darzi commented: “Britain is a science superpower but at times the relationship between the scientific community and politicians has been strained. We need a ‘relationship reset’ as we enter the next phase of the battle against COVID-19 to build a stronger partnership of mutual trust and respect.
“There is a moral imperative for scientists to engage with policymakers—and a moral duty for politicians to listen to and act on what they say. We should be clear that scientists advise, but ministers decide.”
Lord Darzi explained that politicians need to be more transparent about the evidence they use for making decisions, and that scientists need to make sure their public interventions are always evidence-based.
He added that the evidence-base must be made public so that it can be subject to proper scrutiny and peer review, arguing that this had been one of the major problems at the early stage of the pandemic.
COVID-19 progress: A model for the future
A proponent of convergence science, Lord Darzi called for researchers to not only cross boundaries into policy but also between scientific disciplines. He credited the progress made by the scientific and healthcare community over the last six months in the detection, prevention and treatment of COVID-19 to innovate ways of working that should serve as a catalyst for the future:
“My message for new and upcoming scientists is to be bold, leave your comfort zone, cross boundaries, have self-confidence, and do the right thing." Prof Ara Darzi Co-Director, IGHI
“Innovation has moved at a tremendous speed, and that’s the type of flexibility and pragmatism needed when faced with a major threat, such as a pandemic.
“We can learn from what’s happening now and embed this into the way that science and innovation are translated into our society in general. For example, in my own field of robotic surgery, it has taken as long as 15 years for some of the first discoveries to reach fruition and to be translated for the benefit of patients within the NHS.
“Science is there to create value; health value, contributing to our economy, and also social and environmental.
“My message for new and upcoming scientists is to be bold, leave your comfort zone, cross boundaries, have self-confidence, and do the right thing. If you want to make a difference, look to impact policy – you need to seek buy-in from those who hold the keys to the funding and decision-making.”
The need for diverse role models in science
In addition to encouraging scientists to traverse disciplinary boundaries and influence policy, Lord Darzi hopes to use his year-long role as President to promote greater diversity among researchers in leadership roles:
“Diversity is vital so that we get the best talent—but also so we get the most creative and innovative research because that’s how you get fresh ideas." Prof Ara Darzi Co-Director, IGHI
“I want to see a more diverse science community, with more women, more people from ethnic minorities, and more people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Diversity is vital so that we get the best talent—but also so we get the most creative and innovative research because that’s how you get fresh ideas.
“And the leaders of our scientific community must reflect that diversity.”
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