History made as Pacific scholars vote to establish Pacific Academy

In a truly historic day, more than 60 Pacific scholars from across the Pacific Island nations overwhelmingly agreed to establish a Pacific academy of sciences and humanities at a gathering in Apia, Samoa on 24 and 25 October.  AASSREC was represented at the meeting by Secretary-General Michelle Bruce.

The establishment of a Pacific academy received the endorsement of the Prime Minister of Samoa, Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa. 

At present, there is no mechanism for Pacific scholars to convene and bring together their knowledge so it can inform regional and international decision-making, despite the region experiencing profound impacts arising from a changing climate. More often than not, decisions are made by others about them, not with them, even though local scientists and indigenous communities possess unique knowledge about their respective regions and inhabitants.   

The establishment of a Pacific Academy responds to the pressing need to foster co-creation of knowledge to empower Pacific scholars to be part of solutions in their region.

After two days of discussions, hearing from experiences in other regions including the African Academy of Sciences, Australian Academy of Science, the Royal Society Te Aparangi (NZ) and U.S. National Academies, the Pacific scholars overwhelmingly agreed in a landmark decision to join forces to create a voice for science in the Pacific by establishing a Pacific academy.

Sir Collin Tukuitonga, a Pacific Island scholar leading the initiative on behalf of the International Science Council, said he was confident that convening the expertise of scholars from across the Pacific would gain sustained institutional support.

“There is a time and a place for everything, and I think the time for an Academy in the region is now,” Sir Collin Tukuitonga said.

“It will unite Pacific scholars, foster collaboration within the community and outside, and promote research on and from the region,” he said.

Professor Teatulohi Matainaho, Vice-Chancellor of the Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea said, “The Pacific Island states and territories face unique issues, from environmental to health and wellbeing challenges, and local knowledge plays a key role in supporting the solutions,”

“A Pacific Academy would be game changing for the region and for our young people,” Professor Matainaho said.

Early-career researchers welcomed the opportunity for more multidisciplinary local and global collaborations to build regional capability and to create opportunities for them to continue to advance research.

“Importantly, establishing a mechanism to connect all our science, signals to the international science community that Pacific scholars are leading investigators,” said research student Salote Nasalo from the University of the South Pacific.

Professor Tuifuisa’a Patila Malua Amosa, Vice-Chancellor, National University of Samoa, welcomed the leadership of the International Science Council, which is the global voice of science that has catalysed this initiative in view of integrating the voice of Pacific scholars in global scientific decisions.

Meeting participants agreed to set up an Establishment Group to lead the next steps in designing a Pacific academy that represents Pacific scholars and their knowledge.