Jamaicans Dr. Judith Mendes, director of research at the National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST), and Dr. Arnoldo Ventura, who has worldwide recognition as an expert in science and technology, have won each won an International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) Award for 2020. With these awards, Jamaica becomes the first country to win in two award categories in a single year. Dr. Mendes received a Knowledge Associate grant, while Dr. Ventura received the Science Advice Essay Prize for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The grant received by Dr. Mendes provides J$1.4 million for a study entitled “COVID-19 Evidence-to-Policy Pathways in Jamaica, a Small Island Developing State in Economic Turnaround.” The study began in February 2021 and for one year will examine the way scientific information about COVID-19 has informed Jamaica’s policymaking. Dr. Mendes will present the findings of her study at the 2022 INGSA Global Conference.
Part of her research will involve interviews with major stakeholders in the creation of policies. Dr. Mendes hopes the study will facilitate improvements in Jamaica’s science advice infrastructure and help to overcome the low-trust aspect of Jamaican society. She noted the importance of constructing and strengthening networks and bridges between policymakers and scientists. The study will also include documentation of all the policy actions taken by Jamaica’s government that are publicly available to determine if scientific information was used in their development.
Dr. Mendes has praised the Jamaican government for its response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, saying that it has been proactive and collaborative with the scientific community and that this has avoided the worst effects of the pandemic in Jamaica.
Dr. Ventura won his INGSA Essay Prize for his work “Primacy of Science Advice in the Small Islands of the Caribbean.” In the essay, Dr. Ventura summarizes some of his 50 years of experience in the promotion of scientific evidence as the basis for better decision-making in the Caribbean region. He also addresses making improvements in the capacity of scientists in the Caribbean to generate the information required by policymakers. He will present his essay at the Open Science Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021 in Argentina.
Dr. Ventura, an independent consultant on science and technology, said that winning the award indicates the Caribbean “must be specially recognized.” He added that evidence-based data is critical to inform policies for the development of small island states. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of science and technology in the modern world and the need for appropriately managed science and technology systems to control the virus and fuel efforts toward recovery, he said.
Dr. Ventura is the first Caribbean professional to preside over the United Nations’ Commission on Science and Technology (UNCSTD) in Geneva, Switzerland, and the first individual to lead the UNCSTD and the Inter-American Committee on Science and Technology (COMCYT) of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington at the same time.