Policy Immersion for Scientists and Engineers

Moderator:  Dr Julia MacKenzie, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Panelist: Dr Solomon Assefa, IBM Research

Panelist: Prof Roseanne Diab, Academy of Science of South Africa

Panelist: Dr Tamara Kredo, South African Medical Research Council

Panelist: Dr Clare Mohoro, Towson University

Panelist: Dr Evelyn Namubiru-Mwaura, African Academy of Sciences


For science to best serve society scientists need to engage with society. This session focuses on scientists working outside of academics in two key areas: in policymaking and in the private sector.

If we are to maximize the benefit the scientific enterprise can afford citizens, we must cultivate STEM leaders who can engage successfully at the intersection of science, policy, and industry. This session is not focused on the small number of science advice positions at the highest levels of government or private companies; rather, it is about the need to engage and nurture a new generation of scientists in Africa and around the world who can engage successfully in multiple sectors.

Strategies to accomplish this will be discussed and include: expanding the availability of and access to immersive science-policy connection mechanisms; enhancing the training of STEM leaders to include policy- and private sector-relevant skill sets in communication, knowledge sharing and collaboration across disciplines; enhancing bidirectional communication between governments and the STEM-relevant private sector, especially regarding the national and regional STEM talent pipeline and funding for large-scale projects.

Dr. Julia MacKenzie, PhD, is the Director of International Relations for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), United States of America

She is a key adviser to AAAS’s Chief International Officer on development and expansion of bilateral and multilateral relationships. Julia leads implementation of AAAS internationalization efforts, including planning and supporting the development of international programs with AAAS programmatic units.
Prior to AAAS, she was the Senior Technical Advisor within the Office of Research and Science at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. There, she coordinated and oversaw the centrally funded research portfolio for PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), including three large multinational randomized controlled trials in Africa. She also served as the Designated Federal Officer for the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board, an independent FACA-chartered advisory group to PEPFAR.

As an expert in infectious diseases, her scientific career included research on HIV immunopathology, herpes simplex viral entry, and the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

She received her doctorate degree in immunology and microbial pathogenesis at Northwestern University as well as a master’s in public health.

Dr. Solomon Assefa, PhD, is the director of IBM Research, Ethiopia

Africa, encompassing the South African and Kenyan labs. He leads by defining strategy, executing research-and-development projects, hiring top-notch scientists and fostering an innovation ecosystem. The lab aims to develop
breakthrough technologies and advance science by gathering experts in decision analytics, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, human-computer interaction and interactive design.

Previously, he was the director of research strategy and growth initiatives for Africa at IBM. In that role, he developed research strategies by identifying emerging trends, developing human capital and enabling the expansion of IBM Research in Africa. He has also served as a program manager in the office of science and technology, being responsible for evaluating science and technology roadmaps for IBM’s worldwide research laboratories.

As a research scientist, Dr Assefa has worked on IBM’s nanophotonics technology, with responsibilities spanning research, development and technology transfer to commercial foundries. His research contributions include high-speed optical detectors, nanostructured platforms for bio-sensing, and quantum information processing. He has co-written more than 50 scientific articles, has over 45 patents to his name, and has appeared as a guest speaker at numerous conferences worldwide. Dr Assefa holds a BS in physics, a BS and MS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a PhD, all from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Professor Roseanne Diab has been Executive Officer at ASSAf since 2008, South Africa

She is also an Emeritus Professor in Environmental Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is a Fellow of the university, the South African Geographical Society, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), a Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). Her research interests are in Atmospheric Science, with a focus on climate change and air quality. Prof Diab has served on numerous international committees such as the International Ozone Commission (IOC) and the Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution (CACGP). She is active in the Organisation for Women Scientists in the Developing World (OWSD) and serves on the Gender Advisory Board to TWAS. Through her leadership, ASSAf is the host to the International Science Union Regional Office for Africa (ICSU-ROA), the World Academy of Science Regional Office for sub-Saharan Africa (TWAS- ROSSA) and is a member of the InterAcademy Partnership executive committee. In terms of young scientist activities, ASSAf hosts the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) and is the national nominating partner for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

Dr. Tamara Kredo is a specialist in clinical pharmacology and currently holds the position of senior specialist scientist at the South African Cochrane Centre, South African Medical Research Council. She obtained her MBChB degree (1998) and a Masters in Clinical Pharmacology (2008) at the University of Cape Town. She has a special interest in evidence-based healthcare practice and training, rational therapeutics and clinical practice guidelines. Her research interests have included the safety and interactions of anti-malarials and antiretrovirals in patients with HIV and she has also been responsible for pushing new malaria related policy by establishing a special access programme for the use of the WHO essential medicine Artesunate for the treatment of severe malaria in South Africa. Tamara’s current research focuses on the quality and content of clinical practice guidelines within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This work forms part of a broader project to harmonise essential medicines lists and clinical practice guidelines within SADC to facilitate equitable regional procurement of medicines and devices.

Dr. Clare Muhoro, Towson University,Washington

Prof. Muhoro is Associate Professor of Chemistry at Towson University. She is an expert in organometallic chemistry and studies metal-based catalysts for synthesis of important organic molecules with applications in pharmaceuticals and nanomaterials. Her research also focuses on aquatic chemistry of organic pesticides in tropical environments, and Prof. Muhoro has investigated pesticide behavior in surface water systems in Mexico, Ecuador and Kenya. Prof. Muhoro has published research articles in high-impact journals, secured US federal funding for her research and given numerous presentations at national and international scientific conferences. She is involved in international partnership initiatives at Towson University and serves on the board of the Committee for the Advancement of Women in Science, to provide mentorship and career-success training to women scientists both in the US and in developing countries.

Prof. Muhoro serves as science partnerships advisor in the US Global Development Lab at USAID, Washington. Her work involves development and management of scientific programs between USAID and partner country science agencies, US government technical agencies and private sector partners. She has worked to develop new approaches for international scientific collaboration that cross national, discipline and sector boundaries. She has convened roundtables, workshops and symposia focused on enhancement of international scientific collaboration. Prior to her current position, Prof. Muhoro was a Science and Technology Policy Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at USAID. Prof. Muhoro received her B.Sc. in Chemistry from St. Lawrence University, NY, and her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Organometallic Chemistry from Yale University.

Dr. Evelyn Namubiru-Mwaura, PhD, Uganda

Evelyn Namubiru-Mwaura has over fifteen years of experience in International Development, Strategic Governance, Policy Analysis and Natural Resources Management through appointments with African Academy of Sciences(AAS), AGRA, the World Bank, LANDESA, UNREDD, UNDP-GEF, International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) and Makerere University.

Currently, Evelyn is a Strategy and Policy Manager at the African Academy of Sciences where provides strategic leadership in the development and delivery of AAS and AESA’s scientific agenda for Africa. Evelyn holds a Joint PhD in Public Policy from Indiana University, USA and a Masters in Environmental Management and Development from the Australian National University. Evelyn’s PhD Dissertation focused on Institutional changes and their impacts on resource governance and was supervised by the first female Nobel laurate in Economics, the late Prof. Elinor Ostrom. Her research interests include global development policy issues especially those related to Science Technology and Innovation, climate change, land tenure and property rights, agriculture and natural resources governance.

Evelyn has led several programs and projects focusing on Strategic Governance, Land, Gender, Youth, Agriculture, Climate Change and Science Technology and Innovation, primarily in Africa. She has won several other awards including the Elinor Ostrom-Johan Skytte Fellowship, the International Foundation for Science award for field research, the Compton Foundation Peace & Security Fellowship and the Australian Sponsored Training Scholarship. In 2016, Evelyn was a finalist in the Agricultural sector in the CEO Global’s Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards. She is the current Vice President of the African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE) and Chairperson of the External Advisory Board, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Small-Scale Irrigation (ILSSI).