Wednesday, 30 June 2010


By Indie Dinala, postgraduate student in Science, Society and Development at IDS.

Language was one of the big subjects that came up at the New Manifesto launch on 15 June. One criticism was the "social-science" language used in the Manifesto document.

The new manifesto is definitely the way forward. Especially in that it is responsive to social justice, the ever-changing globalised world and other important 3D issues it raises that can contribute to sustainable development.

One interesting thing to me, among other concerns raised by stakeholders at the launch, was the issue of the language of the New Manifesto which kept surfacing from many commentators. This issue, though seeming trivial, may require serious attention to avoid the new manifesto ending up lying on the policy makers' shelves, gathering dust like many other documents before it - that is, if it survives being thrown out of the window.

Obviously what this means is that the new manifesto will need to be spelled out in as clear and simple terms as possible, in order to make it easier for anyone, from a busy politician to individuals at grassroots level, to grasp its very good concepts at a glance. Nevertheless, one needs to be cognisant of the fact that it may not be possible to satisfy everyone as diffrent people have different expectations.

(Image: Manifesto word cloud from
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Monday, 21 June 2010


Ilse Oosterlaken of 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology in the Netherlands (and convenor of The Hague roundtable in November) has blogged about the launch of the New Manifesto:

Is this really a manifesto about development, or does it apply just as much to the western world? I think the last and more people present at the launch had that feeling. Another person expressed his fear that this would turn out as another attempt to tell the South what is best for them, unless we also use the New Manifesto to critically scrutinize the way we in the North are dealing with innovation.

You can read the full text at Ilse's blog. If you weren't at the launch on 15 June, you can watch videos of all the presentations and plenary discussions online. Read more

Thursday, 17 June 2010


To what extent should we be willing to stop innovation in science and technology if we're not certain that we can cope with the consequences when things go wrong?

Andy Stirling, STEPS Centre co-director, was the first "witness" on last night's Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4. You can listen to him on BBC iPlayer (until 23 June) talking about how we should deal with risk in science.

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David Grimshaw of Practical Action spoke at the launch of the New Manifesto on Tuesday. He's also now written a blogpost on what he would add to it.

This 3D agenda needs to be supplemented by 3V’s: vision, values, and vulnerabilities. The vision is now in the manifesto but could be expanded to say something more about the “how?” and the “why?” Values are an important way of being transparent about the basis for action.

Vulnerabilities of resources, people and markets should be recognised.

As David mentions in his blog, Practical Action have run workshops on the Manifesto in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, which are documented on the Manifesto website.

David Grimshaw: A New Manifesto for Innovation, Sustainability and Development
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At the launch of Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto, there was a set of fascinating responses to the Manifesto from speakers from around the globe. The videos are now available to watch online at our channel; the direct links are below.

Manifesto launch - part 1
Manifesto launch - part 2
Manifesto launch - part 3
Manifesto launch - part 4
Manifesto launch - part 5

More information about the speakers is available when you click through to each video.
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Wednesday, 16 June 2010


The launch of Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto at the Royal Society in London yesterday was captured on video and photograph.

The links to the video will appear here on the blog soon, but in the meantime, there is a selection of the photos, taken by Lance Bellers, on our Flickr site. Judi Wakhungu, Executive-Director of the African Centre for Technology Studies, Kenya/ Lance Bellers Read more

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Innovation, Development, Sustainability: A New Manifesto is launched to day at the Royal Society in London with 200 deelgates and a packed programme of debate. Here, Adrian Ely, the project's convenor talks about the initiative.

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Billions spent yet millions live in poverty
Radical change needed in science, technology & innovation

Out-of-date innovation policy is undermining unprecedented opportunities for development aid to improve the environment and combat global poverty, according to a new Manifesto published today (15 June 2010). We live in an era of rapid scientific advance yet poverty is deepening, the environment is in crisis and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has stalled.

In the report, Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto, researchers at the UK’s STEPS Centre argue a radical and urgent shift in the global innovation agenda is needed to ensure the future success of development initiatives. A shift not only in scientific innovation – or new ways of doing things – but in related ideas, institutions and practices.

At this month’s G8 summit in Canada world leaders’ attempts to kick-start a global economic recovery may mean the maintenance of their commitments to the poor take a back seat. However innovation can offer a vital key to not only economic growth, but to poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability as well. The Manifesto offers a series of practical recommendations to deliver more effective, transparent and accountable policies that help empower those most in need.

“Meeting the interlinked global challenges of poverty reduction, social justice and environmental sustainability is the great moral and political imperative of our age,” said Professor Andy Stirling, co-director of the STEPS Centre.

“Our vision is a world where science and technology work more directly for social justice, poverty alleviation and the environment. We want the benefits of innovation to be widely shared, not captured by narrow, powerful interests. This means reorganising innovation in ways that involve diverse people and groups – going beyond the technical elites to harness the energy and ingenuity of users, workers, consumers, citizens, activists, farmers and small businesses,” said Professor Stirling.

To achieve this vision, the Manifesto makes recommendations across five areas for action: agenda-setting; funding; capacity-building; organizing; and monitoring, evaluation and accountability.

Recommendations include: (Full list in Areas for Action section of the Manifesto).

  • Establish national ‘Strategic Innovation Fora’ that allow diverse stakeholders - including citizens’ groups and social movements representing marginalised interests - to scrutinise investments in science, technology and innovation and report to parliaments.

  • Establish an international 'Global Innovation Commission' under a United Nations umbrella to facilitate open, transparent political debate about major technology investments with global or trans-boundary implications, north-south technology transfers and aid geared to science, technology and innovation.

  • Require public and private bodies investing in science, technology and innovation to increase transparent reporting which focuses on poverty alleviation, social justice and environmental

  • Increase investment in scientific capacity-building that trains 'bridging professionals' who connect research and development activity with business, social entrepreneurs and users.

  • Enhance incentives for private sector investment in innovation geared towards poverty alleviation, social justice and environmental sustainability, such as advance purchase agreements, technology prizes and tax breaks.

Global annual spending on research and development exceeds a trillion dollars, with military as the single largest expenditure. Yet every day more than a billion people go hungry, 4,000 children die from waterborne diseases and a thousand women die in pregnancy and childbirth.

Science, technology and innovation are crucial in combating poverty and environmental catastrophe, but a shift away from private profit and military aims towards more diverse and fairly distributed forms of innovation geared towards greater social justice, is urgently needed.

Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto and a multimedia version of the document are launched on the 40th anniversary of the ‘Sussex Manifesto’, written for the UN by researchers from the STEPS Centre’s home institutions of the Institute of Development Studies and SPRU Science and Technology Policy Research at the UK’s University of Sussex. Read more

Monday, 14 June 2010


On the eve of the launch of our new report Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto, project's convenor, Adrian Ely, and our colleague Kevin Urama, executive director of the African Technology Policy Studies Network, have published a joint opinion piece on calling for new politics of innovation built around diversity, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

While we at the STEPS Centre have been beavering away on the New Manifesto project for the past couple of years, so many others around the world have been working hard on thier ideas about the future of science, innovation and technology for development. Kevin's organisation is one of those organisation's with many fanatastic ideas emerging from thier work.

Other groups who have been working in this area will be at our launch tomorrow, where we hope to spark not only some interesting debate, but importantly, some action going forward.

You can read Adrian and Kevin's opinion piece on, where you can commnent and contribute, or, of course, you can comment here.
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At events around the world over the past two years as part of our Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto project, the STEPS Centre has asked delegates one important question, and recorded thier answers on video.
The question we asked was: "If you had to make one recommendation to the United Nations, or another global body, about the future of innovation for sustainability, what would it be?"

Have a look at the answers that people came up with, on our YouTube channel. What do you think is the single most important issue?

As we put the final preparations in place for the launch of the New Manifesto at the Royal Society in London tomorrow, it would be great to hear your views.
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Wednesday, 2 June 2010


By John Thompson and Erik Millstone
Co-Convenors, Food and Agriculture Domain, The STEPS Centre

Brian Wynne, Professor of Science Studies at CSEC and at the ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (CESAGen) and a member of the STEPS Centre International Advisory Board, announced on the 31st of May 2010 that he was stepping down as Vice Chairman of an independent steering group set up by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to shape and manage a public dialogue on food and the use of genetic modification (GM). In interviews on the BBC Radio Four Today Programme and in the Telegraph newspaper on the 2nd of June, he asserted that the public consultation was “rigged” to soften up British public opinion on GM, stating: “In that sense it is in line with so much public policy in Britain that assumes the public is anti-science".

Earlier in the week another member of the group, Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK, also resigned in protest at the FSA's allegedly close links with the biotechnology industry. In her public letter of resignation to Professor John Curtice, Chair of the FSA Public Dialogue Steering Committee, she declared that it had become clear to her that the purpose of the FSA process was nothing more than a public relations exercise on behalf of the GM industry. Wallace also believes that the consultation process embarked on by the FSA “would be a significant waste of £500,000 of taxpayers’ money”.

As the new coalition government, in particular the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is looking for waste to cut, it remains to be seen whether the FSA’s exercise continues without Wynne and Wallace or is rapidly terminated.

The FSA’s dialogue was supposed to provide an opportunity to discuss with members of the public their understanding of GM in food and what they think are its potential risks and benefits. It was also expected to try to identify what information people need and want in order to make confident, informed choices about the food they eat. Both Wallace and Wynne’s resignations came in part because they felt that the FSA’s consultation focused too narrowly on the science of GM, rather than on broader questions about food safety, food security and food justice, which meant that the concerns of the public will not be heard. In Wynne’s public letter of resignation of 31 May 2010 to Professor Curtice, he emphasises this point:

“This is not just a question of whether arguments and opinions beyond pro-GM will be included in the dialogue. I am sure that they will, and that this will be documented – but that was never my point... This is that, even if wider positions are heard, if no one challenges the institutional dogma which afflicts FSA and it seems other government bodies, that the issues are scientific and the only perspective which can be properly used to assess these is (so-called) ‘sound science’, then these wider frameworks will be doomed to dismissal before they have even been properly heard, since some of them at least are saying that a (so-called) ‘sound science’ perspective cannot possibly accommodate, understand and assess some of the key issues over global food and its food-chains (including GM), and their resilience, sustainability and justice.”

In both national and international debates on contentious science and technology policy issues, such as climate change and GM food, it is common to organise committees to guide public consultations and translate complex scientific findings into policy-relevant forms. These bodies frequently combine knowledge and skills from experts in different fields and contexts. Their authority derives in part from individual members’ scientific expertise, impartiality and sound judgement and in part from the views they represent. The FSA’s Public Dialogue Steering Committee is an example of one such body which sought to do this around the GM food debate.

The resignations of Wynne and Wallace reflect the narrowness of those bodies, for they highlight growing concerns about how readily policy issues can be framed by powerful interests, such as the biotechnology firms, masquerading as ‘sound science’. Such concerns about the validity of scientific claims have increased substantially in recent years as significant amounts of public and private money are invested in science and technology and their application is shown to have major social, environmental and economic consequences, sometimes at a global scale (e.g. the recent controversy over the integrity of the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Thus, it is not only the technical integrity of science that matters, but also its public accountability.

A lack of accountability can result in innovations having too little impact as well as too much. For example, considerable proportions of official and charitable research funding for poor farmers in developing countries is devoted to simplistic technological fixes, which are unlikely to be adopted and/or retained by those farmers for whose sake the projects were ostensibly pursued, either because the innovations are inappropriate or because supporting institutional and physical infrastructures are not available. When the authorities try to tell the citizens what their agendas should be and ignore attempts by those citizens and communities to articulate their own agendas, official and corporate projects may be ineffective, and their may discredit the scientific community whose authority they are trying to invoke.

Science, technology and innovation today must meet a series of public expectations, not only about the technical characteristics of the products, but also about processes and purposes. The credibility of the FSA’s Public Dialogue Steering Committee and similar initiatives should be evaluated in the context of heightened demand for public accountability. But creating accountability practices is neither straightforward nor easy. It requires an analytic-deliberative process involving sustained public consultations, even in the production and assessment of scientific knowledge, as well as recognition that public consultation can improve the quality, adequacy and legitimacy of expert judgements. Most of all, it requires a critical and transparent assessment of the initial questions to be used in a consultation process on any ‘hot topic’ in science and technology policy, for it is in the framing of those questions that the terms of the engagement with the public are set.
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