Barcelona Alumni: A digital science-policy nexus connecting international talent to local challenges

In 2020, Barcelona Alumni’s global virtual platform was launched to leverage the network of international talent educated in Barcelona but residing abroad and contribute to feeding scientific evidence into the local policy-making process. By connecting international experts and local challenges, this first-of-its-kind digital platform provides a pioneering approach to policy-making, making it more crowdsourced, evidence-based, replicable, scalable, accountable, and transparent.

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Current global and urban challenges are characterized by unprecedented complexity levels, indicating the centrality of developing science-informed public decision-making. Emerging challenges such as the impact of artificial intelligence on human rights, the climate emergency, the future of work, and global health are clear examples of topics traditionally dealt with by public policy-making. However, as we have seen in the last years, evidence-based advice is not always available on time to better inform the policy-making process. Nurturing this process with multi-disciplinary perspectives and international best practices while empowering anticipatory capabilities, diversity, collaboration, and openness have become a priority for governments and legislative bodies worldwide.

At the same time, the hyper-mobility of high-skilled professionals creates a process in which professionals across all disciplines are trained at top universities, companies, and research centers in specific cities but further develop their careers elsewhere. This global mobility has positioned talent retention as a top priority for most countries and cities. Fortunately, new digital technologies enable us to connect talent diasporas with their former communities.

Bridging these two global trends together, in 2020, Barcelona Alumni was launched as a digital science-policy nexus connecting international talent to local challenges. This platform brings together over 1,000 high-achieving professionals in science, technology, and innovation from any origin, that were trained or worked in Barcelona but are currently based abroad. The Barcelona Alumni members are committed to engage with the city's most significant challenges and to inform new policies within the scope of their expertise.

Barcelona Alumni was launched by SciTech DiploHub, a pioneering non-profit public-private partnership backed by leading research centers, universities, non-profits, startups, corporations, and public institutions. SciTech DiploHub has the mandate to make Barcelona a more influential player on the global stage through its contribution to science diplomacy and sustainable development.

Barcelona Alumni tackles the disjuncture between policy-makers and international expertise by providing a digital platform with tailor-made digital tools designed for facilitating the science-policy nexus. Barcelona Alumni is also a tool for empowering emerging voices, promoting diversity and collaboration. This science-policy nexus can inform relevant stakeholders and create publicly available policy documents, recommendations, and projects.

Barcelona Alumni’s global virtual platform provides seamless functionalities for connecting experts with relevant local challenges:
● Mapping: it identifies members abroad by their geographical locations, sectors, and area of expertise (e.g., sustainable mobility, climate change, global health, social well-being, among others).
● Contribution Selection: experts can choose their preferred collaboration approaches for each project, signaling if they are open to participating in public events and commissions, conducting document revisions, elaborating policy recommendations, drafting scientific reports, and other activities.
● Matchmaking: this process is powered by AI-driven and human-confirmed matchmaking, connecting experts and relevant public policy calls on pressing topics, such as climate emergency, technology for improving health services, public space, and social well-being.

These activities are supported and facilitated by customized and user-friendly digital tools included in the platform, such as meeting scheduling services, built-in video-conference tool, thematic forums, and regional sections. Additionally, the Barcelona Alumni project focuses on capacity building, upskilling and reskilling opportunities, providing members with regular online workshops and training options for experts interested in better connecting their scientific know-how with public policy-making.

This innovation draws inspiration from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellowships program in the United States. This is an interesting example of a project that connects scientists and public policy. Nonetheless, this initiative could not tackle the challenges of bringing in new voices to the discussion or retaining talents, indicating the importance of developing new approaches to refining the science-policy nexus.

Aiming to advance in this direction, Barcelona Alumi is a pioneering project supported by a global virtual platform that can easily be adapted to local and national governments, attesting to its potential for scalability and replicability. This project's primary focus is to promote refined decision-making processes that ultimately impact local citizens, benefiting from evidence-based policy supported via this innovative digital nexus between science and public policies.

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Year: 2020
Level of government: Local government

Status:

  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed

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