Thursday, November 8, 2012

Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD)

The Malaysian Chapter of Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) was established in 2011. OWSD is an international organization under the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) whose central role is to promote women’s access to science and technology, and enhancing their greater involvement in decision-making processes for the development of their countries and the international scientific community. 

The Malaysian Chapter of OWSD was established with a mission to support and promote in-country activities and policies which improve female participation in science and technology, and thereby contributing to regional goals.

Its objectives are:
* To create networking, advocacy and information provision between similar institutions and individuals for promoting increased participation of girls and women in science and technology professions.
* To work towards strengthening regional scientific and technological activities in the spirit of co-operation among developing countries.
* Initiate activities which address national concerns and work with all levels of society (grassroots, schools and universities).
* Evolve and develop strategies for mobilizing financial and human resources towards achieving TWOWS’ objectives
Malaysian Chapter are expected to develop the following:
* Advocacy programmes to increase awareness among political, NGO professional and lay circles on the value of gender equity and female participation in science and technology.
* Gather and disseminate information on equity issues in science in order to contribute to policy development.
* Initiate research projects in the areas of interest to TWOWS: science and technology; education; environment; health and nutrition; information technology; and food and agriculture, with particular relevance to critical development concerns.

Some of the key areas that will be focused by Malaysian Chapter are:

1. Nurturing Young women scientists
2. Young women scientists awards
3. Collating Senior scientists as role models for young scientists
4. Increasing fellowship for young women for South-South Cooperation
5. Developing Mentor-mentee programme

The Malaysian Chapter of OWSD is open to all women involved in science and technology and with a minimum basic degree in science.

For those who are interested, please contact me at for membership form.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Religion and Biotech

I am not going to write about ethics and what religions say about new technologies. This is one of our forte but not for this post.

Here, I want to share a recent activity we organized using a religion platform to reach to the public. Through our research we understand that religious concerns and perspective are very important for a country like Malaysia, where everyone upholds in one way or another religion of choice/birth. Religions play an important role in almost everyone’s life and a number of decisions are made based on one’s belief, varying from one religion to another.

However, religious scholars do not have good understanding of biotech and it isn’t their priority to address concerns on this subject unless, a crisis occurs. Government agencies too do not engage religious scholars in their biotech communication strategies.

So, we decided to break the norm.
It all started when I was approached by a Hindu based organization (Arulneri) to give a talk on biotech to their youth to encourage them to pursue studies and careers in biotech. I never imagined that it would be the biggest public seminar for MABIC. What was meant to be a simple talk and Q&A evolved to become a half day activity complete with talk on biotech, panel discussion, DNA extraction session, and media interviews. What more with more than 150 participants – students, teachers, parents, religious scholars, and media.
Excitement was in the air. The pathway towards getting into biotech and related programmes at public and private universities, career prospects, safety of biotech products, its potential and documented benefits, and impact to the environment were the common questions from the audience.

The audience was extremely contended with the knowledge gained on that day. And now we have a number of invitations from teachers for similar seminar at their schools. We were also featured on one of the programmes in Astro. (You can view the video here)

And the lesson we learnt as biotech communicators – that we cannot impose biotech communication onto religious scholars but we could use their platform to get quality and readymade audience. Where else could you get 150 captive participants?

By Mahaletcumy Arujanan