An ambitious plan is underway to establish the first science academy in the Pacific, with the hope that it will help promote research on and from the region.
More than 70 scholars from around the Pacific, including New Zealand, recently met in Samoa to discuss plans to co-design and establish a Pacific Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
It gained strong support from those scholars who attended.
The Pacific region stands to be most impacted by the changing environment; namely the climate change crisis affecting low-lying nations including Tuvalu and Tokelau.
But there is currently no set place for the Pasefika scholars - who have unique local and indigenous knowledge of the region - to gather and use to help inform decision-making both locally and internationally.
Well-respected Pacific health leader Sir Dr Collin Tukuitonga led the initiative on behalf of the International Science Council and said he was confident that bringing the expertise of scholars from around the Pacific together would gain institutional support.
“There is a time and place for everything and I think the time for an academy in the region is now.”
Sir Collin is the University of Auckland’s Associate Dean (Pacific) for its medical school. He acknowledged what such a place would help do in the Pacific.
‘A Pacific academy would be game-changing for the region’
“It will unite Pacific scholars, foster collaboration within the community and outside and promote research on and from the region.”
Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said the establishment of such an academy in the Pacific would be a global testament and commitment to the Pacific region to promote sustainable development through scholarly activities that provide interdisciplinary approaches to complex problems.
She also said the academy would be able to offer scientific advice to governments and inform public policy for the benefit of Pacific communities.
Vice-chancellor of the Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea, Professor Teatulohi Matainaho, acknowledged the importance of having people with local knowledge involved, given that Pacific Island states and territories are facing unique issues.
He also spoke about what it would do for future generations.
“From environmental to health and wellbeing challenges, and local knowledge plays a key role in supporting the solutions.”
“A Pacific Academy would be game-changing for the region and for our young people.”
Moving forward, an establishment group has been set up to lead the next direction in designing the Pacific academy.