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G-20 Nations agree on ‘One Health Initiative & Open Access to Knowledge:  Ajay Sood

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By Arun Pratap Singh

Ramnagar, 29 Mar: The Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India, Prof Ajay Sood, the Scientific Secretary, Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Parvinder Maini, and the Under Secretary at the G20 Secretariat, Naman Upadhyay, briefed the media at Hotel Taj Corbett here today about the discussions held at the First Meeting of the G20-Chief Science Advisers Roundtable (G20-CSAR).

Briefing the media, Prof Sood said that four major points were discussed during the intense discussions among the Scientific Advisors of the participating countries. It was agreed to continue to discuss and refine the draft points to come out with a common final policy statement by August when the next round of the roundtable will be held. The four major topics discussed were Opportunities in One Health for better disease control and pandemic preparedness; Synergising Global Efforts to Expand Access to Scholarly Scientific Knowledge; Discussion on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Science & Technology and the fourth major point of discussion was how to work out an Institutional Mechanism for inclusive, continuous and Action-Oriented Global S&T Policy Dialogue.

Sood informed media that Health is now being looked at by the scientific community as an integrated one health for humans, livestock and pets as well as wildlife. The participants agreed to have one health policy which looks at and takes care of health of the human beings, livestock and pets as well as wildlife as one issue. There are a number of diseases that can spread from human beings to animals and vice versa. There is a need to be able to stop spread of any epidemic and pandemic by increasing surveillance. He added that, during the discussion on One Health, emphasis was given to increase surveillance and to use cost effective techniques for this like daily sample collections from municipal waste and drains and test them for increased virus presence, etc., and to increase surveillance of wildlife too.  It was agreed that the Science and Technology should work jointly on different types of vaccines like mRNA, DNA and others and to ensure better coverage. Prof Sood added that Government of India had already been working for several months on the One Health topic and has begun collecting samples on a regular basis at a number of places.

The second topic was ensuring wider and open access to knowledge and research. He said that this is a complicated issue at the global level and the publishers around the world are increasingly restricting access to their journals and the subscription fee is so high in many cases that several countries find it difficult to subscribe to the research publications. He said that the delegates agreed that there is a need to speak to the publishers and others concerned and make efforts to get easier access to the journals. Further, it was also agreed by all the participants that researchers should also be encouraged to make a repository of their research articles in their respective institutions and universities. In response to a question, Sood said that the discussion was mainly held with respect to non- competitive research not sponsored by the corporate or private sectors. He added that more research across the world is still being undertaken in the government sector than in the private sector.

He further said that another major subject discussed at the Roundtable was mainstreaming of traditional knowledge in various countries and even the traditional knowledge prevalent in the tribal, minorities and the local population. It was felt that there is much to learn from the tribals and other such communities and refine that traditional knowledge and rationalise it. There is no need to separate the mainstream modern knowledge and the traditional knowledge.  This will also help in greater bonding between various communities and make the knowledge more inclusive.

In response to another question, Sood admitted that climate challenge is emerging as a major challenge and a discussion was also held on this. He said that public participation is necessary in all subjects. All the countries agreed on this. They said that the draft would be prepared and given at the next August meeting.