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Policy Engagement Workshop: Empowering Africa’s young scientists

By Grégoire Sawadogo, PhD student, Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS)

The Pan-African Mosquito Control Association’s (PAMCA) 9th Annual Conference & Exhibition in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, gathered vector control professionals from across the African continent and around the world. As a PhD student in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, I attended the conference and presented research work related to the odorant co-receptor gene in the African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae, and how it could be exploited for vector control. I also took part in the 2023 Policy Engagement Workshop organized by PAMCA and the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research on the margins of the conference. The workshop, which aimed to raise awareness of the importance of having the scientific community engaged in international policy debates and provide a set of tools for researchers to communicate effectively about their work, brought together young scientists from across various African research institutions.

Participants attend a session of the Policy Engagement Workshop in Addis Ababa. Photograph: PAMCA.

Workshop sessions extended over two days and combined theory and practice. The theory part helped us gain a better understanding of the importance of engaging in policy debates, learn more about relevant international fora for scientists in the vector control field, as well as explore how to make the best of engagement opportunities. Through a series of practical exercises and roleplays, we were also invited to step out of our comfort zone and practice our presentation skills and ability to explain our research work effectively to different audiences.

My research at the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS) in Burkina Faso focuses on the development of innovative genetic tools that could one day contribute to the fight against malaria by complementing existing tools to control the disease. The workshop allowed me to better understand how international policy debates can shape research work and practice communicating about my research with a non-scientific audience.

Participants and moderators of the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research’s Policy Engagement Workshop

The workshop was a great opportunity to have rewarding discussions and learn from other young scientists who are working in the vector control space. I enjoyed learning, sharing experiences, meeting people and establishing networks, and I look forward to putting my newfound learnings into practice.

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