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The General Assembly Hall of the United Nations

The General Assembly Hall of the United Nations

United Nations

U.N. Names New Science Advisory Board

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed 26 scientists to a new Scientific Advisory Board that will provide the global body advice on "science, technology and innovation … for sustainable development."  The panel, announced on 18 October, is charged with ensuring "that up-to-date and rigorous science is appropriately reflected in high-level policy discussions within the UN system," according to a press release by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO, based in Paris, will host the secretariat for the board.

"This is a further sign that scientific expertise is becoming more and more important in political decision-making," Jörg Hacker, president of the German National Academy of Sciences and one of the board's designated members, told ScienceInsider today. Other members include Israeli crystallographer and Nobel Prize winner Ada Yonath; Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti; and Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Two U.S. scientists are also on the board: Susan Avery, director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Shankar Sastry, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Board members will serve pro bono for 2 years and their contract can be renewed once.

"I'd imagine that most of our work will be concerned with the big topics: climate, energy, health," Hacker says. For example, he says, the panel might examine global demographic changes or strategies for curbing increases in noncommunicable diseases.

The board still has to resolve a number of organizational issues. But it is scheduled to meet for the first time early in 2014, and Hacker says “it is important that we start working straight after that."