Rapid Science Response Mechanisms

Moderator: Dr Khotso Mokhele, Department of Science and Technology

Panelist: Prof. Howard Alper, University of Ottawa

Panelist: Prof Robin Grimes,Foreign and Commonwealth Office and co-chairs the OECD’s


Science in various forms is a vital tool in responding to disasters such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes, disease outbreaks, volcanic eruptions, etc. For different national or regional systems of innovation, the vital scientific information (e.g. meteorological forecast and trends; fire and drought patterns; expertise to interpret data) is sitting with various institutions and these need to be coordinated to provide an effective and efficient disaster response mechanism. This session will facilitate discussion about the importance of science advice and how to coordinate various scientific data providers in order to respond rapidly to the disasters.

Prof Robin Grimes,Foreign and Commonwealth Office and co-chairs the OECD’s, United Kingdom

Professor Robin Grimes has been Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since February 2013. He is responsible for providing advice to the Foreign Secretary, Ministers and officials on science, technology and innovation. His role is to ensure that FCO work on key issues undergoes proper scientific challenge, and to strengthen the scientific and engineering capacity within the Foreign Office. The CSA is supported in his work by the UK Science and Innovation Network attachés based in overseas posts. Prof Grimes is also Professor of Materials Physics at Imperial College. In his research, he uses computer simulation techniques to understand the behaviour of materials for energy applications including nuclear fission and fusion, fuel cells, batteries and solar cells. Professor Grimes is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.


Prof Howard Alper, University of Ottawa, Canada

Professor Howard Alper is currently spearheading the initiative by the Governor General of Canada (Head of State) to enhance global recognition for Canadian research excellence. He is Chair of the Canvassing Committee for the initiative. He is also Distinguished University Professor at the University of Ottawa. The basic research Prof Alper has been pursuing spans organic and inorganic chemistry, with potential applications in the pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and commodity chemical industries. He has served on a number of NSERC committees (e.g. Committee on Research Grants), and as Chair of Boards and Committees including, amongst others, the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE), Council of Canadian Academies, Canadian Research Knowledge Network, and the Steacie Institute of Molecular Sciences. Prof Alper also served as a Chair of the Government of Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) which provides advice to Cabinet and the Prime Minister on science, technology and innovation issues.


Dr Khotso Mokhele, Microbiology at the University of California Davis, South Africa

Special Advisor to the Minister of Science and Technology, South Africa; Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Chairman of the Boards of Directors of Tiger Brands Limited and AECI Limited, Non-Executive Director on Boards of Afrox Limited and Hans Merensky Holdings (Pty) Ltd as well as President of the Hans Merensky Foundation

President/CEO of the Foundation of Research Development (1992-1999), President/CEO of the successor National Research Foundation (1999-2006) and Founder President of the Academy of Science of South Africa. He served on numerous structures that advised several Ministers in South Africa on research, science, higher education and skills development. Notable among these is Chairman of the National Skills Authority; Convener of the CHE Task Force on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy and Public Accountability in South African Higher Education and Deputy Convener of CHE Task Force on a New Shape and Size of the Higher Education System in South Africa. He represented South Africa on the Executive Board of UNESCO (1997-2001). In these capacities he was one of the key players in setting the strategic direction for the emerging democratic South Africa.

International roles include Vice-President: Scientific Planning and Review of the International Council for science (ICSU) (2005-2008) and service to UNESCO to assist the Caribbean Community (CARICom) with structuring their research, science, technology and innovation systems. He is currently facilitating merger discussion between ICSU and the International Social Sciences Council (ISSC) as they deliberated on best global institutional arrangements to ensure that all domains of science contribute maximally to finding solutions to the vexed challenges that currently confront humanity to ensure a sustainable future. He also currently Co-Chairs an OECD Expert Group on Science Advice during Trans-National Crises.

His recognition awards include the Legion of Honour (Chevalier) awarded by the President of France; Honorary Doctorates from eight South African institutions as well Rutgers University, USA; Science Diplomacy Award presented by the Minister of Science and Technology; Technology Top 100 Lifetime Achievers Award and National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Award.