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Bringing the Power of Fellows to ASEAN

Modeled on the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships program and the brainchild of both an alumna fellow and a former mentor, April 7 marked the formal inauguration of the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellows Pilot Program. The launch signals clear progress toward the goal of ensuring that science informs policy among the member states that comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Attendees gather at the April 1-4 orientation event in Jakarta, Indonesia. (ASEAN Secretariat)

Inspired by their past involvement together through the AAAS fellowships, this pilot is the product of a fruitful collaboration between Teresa Leonardo, 2007-09 Executive Branch Fellow at USAID, and Montira Pongsiri, a former fellowship mentor at EPA. Leonardo is the Regional Science & Technology Advisor at the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia. Pongsiri recently completed an assignment as Science Advisor to the US Mission to ASEAN.

Leonardo explained: “We initiated this program to help build a cadre of leaders with the capacity to work at the science to policy interface. In ASEAN countries and elsewhere, decision makers often do not have the time or expertise to weed through complex technical information that is poorly tailored to their needs. Through this fellowship, the participating scientists will develop skills to help bridge this gap in the application of science to policy and evidence based decision-making. By implementing this activity at the regional level, we're also building a network that will help share lessons and experiences across ASEAN – forming these people-to-people connections is hugely important.”

Supported by USAID and the U.S. Mission to ASEAN, the program selects scientists through a competitive application process for one-year assignments to government ministries in their home countries. Beyond encouraging the use of science to inform policy, the program goals include: advancing ASEAN regional cooperation on science and technology; building institutional capacity for regional and transboundary issues; and, deepening one-to-one ties between ASEAN and U.S. scientists.

The inaugural class of eight fellows focuses on biodiversity, climate change, early warning for disaster risk reduction, and health and water management in Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. ASEAN fellows are mentored by current or alumni AAAS Fellows. Expected outputs include policy briefs, papers, presentations, blogs and events.

AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships Director Cynthia Robinson and Dr. Norman Neureiter, director of the AAAS Center for Science, Technology & Security Policy, participated in the fellows’ orientation session in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 1-4. Robinson spoke about fellowship processes including identifying objectives and activities for the fellowship year. Orientation also covered the benefits and challenges of working through ASEAN – for example, how to deal with national sovereignty versus regional concerns. 

Learn more from the U.S. Mission to ASEAN blog.