Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) and Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC Africa) Joint Conference
From SETAC’s perspective, there are three major goals for the joint conference:
- Support and expand the knowledge base on health and environmental risk assessment in Africa
- Strengthen the community of African women engaged in the health and environmental risk sciences
- Provide opportunities for learning by and engagement with students and young scientists
These conference goals will be achieved by bringing together the leading international experts on health and environmental risks, national experts within Africa, and the wider community of environmental and health scientists within Africa. Special attention will be given to women scientists through a mentoring program and Women’s Event designed to establish a network of scientists that can be carried forward beyond the conference.
Two international professional societies in health and environmental risk sciences – SRA and SETAC – will hold a three-day joint conference from 5–8 May 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa, around the SRA’s Fifth World Congress on Risk. The two societies have previously sponsored sessions at the last three SRA World Congresses, including Guadalajara, Mexico (2008), Sydney, Australia (2012), and Singapore (2015). Organization for the conference has been underway since the 2015 World Congress. Every four years, the World Congress on Risk brings together the leading international experts on health risk science to expand knowledge about scientific methods for evaluating health, environmental and other risks that affect national and global affairs. As part of this effort, we have reached out to United Nations Environment (UNE) and the World Bank to collaborate on sessions and to engage with policy makers. Based on past world congresses and SETAC Africa meetings, we expect attendance of 450–500 scientists in the health, environmental and risk sciences.
Our focus on expanding knowledge on assessing health and environmental risk and on moving these sciences toward policy and decision-making integrates all the technical elements that bear on improving human and environmental health. Both SRA and SETAC are aware of the larger political and economic realities that need to be addressed when shaping policy within Africa, and the joint conference will include speakers on these topics. Partners with SETAC have offered their assistance in bringing government to the discussions that will take place in Cape Town in 2019. SETAC will also continue with its global program to share knowledge with environmental ministries concerning the management of chemicals in the environment; this program has been successfully carried out at SETAC meetings in Latin America, Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe. The 2019 joint conference will debut this effort within Africa.
The advancement of health and environmental science among the community of scientists in Africa is especially challenging. Constraints include access to resources, funding, availability of mentors, availability of equipment, logistical impediments to travel, and political unrest. Additional challenges compound these constraints for women scientists, who must overcome traditional gender barriers, and who are often not recognized for their work once they do.
SETAC places emphasis on basic applied sciences such as environmental chemistry, toxicology and ecology. The primary goal of the joint conference is to illustrate how these sciences relate to using health and environmental risk analyses within Africa. The long-term goal is supporting the eventual use of risk analyses and related sciences in policy making and regulatory development. Risk assessment training has been a fully attended part of every past SETAC Africa meeting. The women who participated in the Women’s Event that was held in October 2017 also attended the environmental risk training and requested additional training and opportunities to work with mentors in this field. The strong interest in learning about risk assessment by scientists in Africa reflects a desire to learn how to frame complex problems and to employ a broader range of information resources for scientific investigation. Because risk assessment involves developing and synthesizing information from multiple disciplines and sources, and because there is a need to frame issues, the discipline is particularly useful in Africa, as scientists can advance research without heavy investment or reliance on expensive analytical equipment. Further, SETAC Africa scientists have expressed interest in holistic approaches that combine human and environmental considerations. From the African perspective, human health involves the full range of factors bearing on nutrition, clean water, safe food, disease threats and use of chemicals. For this reason, a key session on One Health is planned for the joint conference.
The innovative aspects of the joint conference are:
The conference will leverage the resources of two leading professional societies – SRA and SETAC – to advance risk sciences within Africa. The long-range goals are to build these skills, including the development of a certification program, and work toward gaining wider acceptance for risk and other sciences for policy and regulation within Africa. At present, the connection is weak between science and governance. Together SETAC and SRA will help address this need.
The Women’s Event will initiate a communication and mentoring system for women scientists within Africa. Women are currently underrepresented in the sciences and face a range of challenges. Event participants seeking to become proficient in risk analyses will be well served by the technical aspects of the joint conference. Mentors from within Africa as well as senior researchers from SETAC and SRA have volunteered to organize this initiative. Leaders who have confirmed their participation include Gertie Arts, Wageningen, The Netherlands; Tara Sabo-Attwood, University of Florida, USA; Lorraine Maltby, University Sheffield, UK; JoAnn Shatkin, Vireo Advisors LLC, USA; and Beatrice Opeolu, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa.
About the Conference
A full-day training course on ecological and human risk assessment will be provided on 5 May for a small charge ($25 USD). The conference is three days, from 6–8 May, and will include daily plenary panels, joint SRA and SETAC sessions, platform and poster sessions and special symposia. The meeting will follow the general format that SRA and SETAC use for conferences. There will be one registration and all sessions are open to all attendees. This will give the conference a unified feel. Plenary speakers are chosen by both SRA and SETAC. At this writing, three joint plenary panels have been established – health (including environmental and one-health), resilience and development. Invitations to speak have been issued to esteemed individuals working in health science and policy from Africa, North America and the World Health Organization.
The program will blend health, environmental and risk sciences from SRA and SETAC as well as abstracts from members from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), who plan to be a conference sponsor. There have been two calls for abstracts and to date, 250 abstracts have been received in a broad range of risk sciences including health and environmental. A final call for abstracts is open until 11:59 p.m. US Central Standard Time on 1 February 2019. The full program will be assembled shortly after.
SRA and SETAC have identified topics for which there are invited speakers. In keeping with the spirit of gender, geographic and sector diversity, these are leading experts in their respective fields selected to provide a diversity of opinion. All SETAC conferences, workshops and governance embrace this diversity and in particular tripartite (government, academia and business) participation. Topics for which SRA and SETAC are combining sessions include:
- Advancing holistic risk approaches: OneHealth and the interconnectivity of ecosystemservices
- Toxicology across the taxonomicspectrum
- Addressing legacies of contaminatedlands
- Dealing with complex risk issues: Malaria and vectorcontrol
- Evaluating and ensuring food safety
- Climate change and informationsystems
- Public health and emerging disease
- Environmental and social impacts of mining and extractionindustry
- Implementation of Sustainable DevelopmentGoals
- Migration and resilience acrosssystems
- Risk communication
At this writing, abstracts are also welcome on the following topics:
- Risk and resilience
- Water-related risks
- Urban risks
- Aquatic toxicology and ecology
- environmental and analyticalchemistry
- risk perception
- genetically modified products andsustainability
- integrated environmental assessment andmanagement
- remediation andrestoration
- risk communication and socialissues
- terrestrial and wildlife toxicology andecology
- life cycleassessment
- investment risk mitigation and resilience in energy systemsinfrastructure
- FrackMap: Building a geo-spatially based nexus of research publications and perceptions related tohydrofracturing
- preparedness for natural hazards on coastalcommunities
- risk of harmful algal blooms to humans and aquaticbiota
- risks of cellulosenanomaterials
- establishing safety of nanomaterials for food-relateduse
- identifying geographic regions and groups at high risk for disease outbreaks
- citizen science approach as a way to improve malaria riskperception
- radiation risk in breast cancerimaging
- wastewater epidemiology as a rapid tool for understanding community drug use patterns
- risk communication of climate change
- the Women’sEvent
The Women’s Event will be advertised through both SRA and SETAC channels. We anticipate that between 100 and 200 women scientists will attend. This reflects the popularity of the 2017 Women’s Event, which was attended by almost every woman attending the SETAC Africa meeting. The joint conference in 2019 will be much larger and supported by both SRA and SETAC. Beatrice Opeolu has revisited the feedback from the 2017 event and is looking to incorporate a training component. There was interest in risk assessment training or developing soft skills, such as grant development or a scientific publishing workshop. The speakers will share insights on their science and their careers and address key questions related to how best can women help achieve positive health outcomes in Africa through their science research and risk assessment skills.
The event will consist of:
- Keynote speakers (all invitations have been accepted at this writing)
- Discussion break-out groups
- General assembly to discuss and share possible paths and solutions
- Training and tutorials on scientific publications
- Planning for the establishment of an ongoing jointly administered SRA–SETAC program to enable continued engagement, support and communication for and between the women within Africa
Because of the focus on women at the joint conference, special arrangements will be made to support children and families. SETAC has recently updated policies regarding participation in meetings by children accompanying their parents and in providing child care opportunities.
The meeting will be held at the Cape Town International Conference Center, which adheres to the Universal Accessibility Standards. The Center has wheel-chair access, designated parking pays and drop-off accommodations, direct access escalators, suitable restrooms and Braille inscriptions on directional signage.
Cape Town and South Africa provide an ideal environment for the joint conference. The environment is safe and attractive for conference goers and a destination that will attract international scientists who are important for sharing in the discussions. The city and region are experiencing many health and environmental challenges ranging from policies around how best to combat Malaria (in the north), survival of coastal communities and legacy contaminated lands from mineral extraction, pesticides in agriculture, urbanization and climate change.