Value of scientific knowledge and leadership discrepancies

As I stated in my previous post, the nature of work at APFNet is a combination of scientific knowledge and political dynamics, which stresses the transformation from solid scientific evidence to policymaking. Therefore, before working with the team, I was expecting the organizational leader-follower-ship would preferably hold scientists or people with scientific expertise more accountable in decision-making. During this week’s internship experience, I discover that science experts play leadership roles only on a certain level, more specifically, on an operational level rather than managerial; besides, the COVID situation empowers the IT department and people with technological expertise.

One of my tasks for this week was to write a summary of a project proposal on monitoring forest cover change from a member economy. My job was to turn a 25-page proposal into a 3-page summary with the general information about the project and its objectives and expected outcomes. One of my colleagues in the department was to help me with writing before handing over to the department. She holds both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forestry with solid scientific expertise, specifically in the biology and environment of forests. Therefore, for the first few drafts, she recommended me reading and learning more about the physical cycles in the biosphere and the use of technologies like satellite images and remote sensing. As a result, I constantly turned to people who knew about those methodologies for help, which were substantive for projects to operate. Besides, since the organization occasionally holds online webinars and workshops, both within the organization and for the public, the IT department is empowered with more responsibilities and accountabilities in guiding organizational behaviors online. Some duties added after things moved online include preparing instructions and guidelines for Zoom meetings and Microsoft Teams. The IT department is given more leadership roles because of the COVID situation.

Later on, when I handed my draft to the department manager who held degrees in English, she suggested making a few changes by using diplomatic languages in order to make it pass. For example, members of the organization are referred as ‘economies’ instead of ‘states’ or ‘countries’, even if many of them are in fact national entities. However, since the organization is headquartered in China, along with participations of Hong Kong (as Chinese special administrative region) and Chinese Taipei, members are recognized as ‘economies’ to avoid political controversies. Moreover, she suggested me replacing some scientifically accurate wording with diplomatic vagueness in order to apply to maximal economies in the organization.

Therefore, scientific knowledge is valued and possesses more leadership roles on the operational level of this regional organization, where accuracy and briefness are preferable for projects to function. Knowledge of technologies is especially more significant due to the pandemic situation than normal times. However, on a managerial level, political sensitivity and flexibility play more leadership roles to attract membership and enforce compliance. The discrepancies are in line with leadership needs on different levels.