Fields of Focus

Fields of focus

Creating a science literate society for informed decision making

While biotechnology applications play crucial roles ensuring food security, alleviating poverty, sustainable development, disease management, socioeconomic upliftment, and creation of employment opportunities, a host of problems beset public perception of biotechnology. These include bad press, misinformation and fear-mongering. There is a strong need to engage the public with credible, accurate and science-based information that is packaged in an appealing and relevant format for the public. Science literacy among the public is important to make evidence-based decisions on foods and nutrition, healthcare, environment management and healthy lifestyle choices.

The Petri Dish

This is the 1st science newspaper in the region and is a brainchild of MABIC to address the lack of science literacy among key stakeholders and the general public. Science and research remain in the ivory towers, while decisions on policies, regulations and lifestyle are influenced by pseudoscience, bad press and fear mongering strategies by critics of science. The newspaper also addresses the decline of interest in STEM education among students.

The newspaper started as a 12-page monthly in February 2011 with a circulation of 2,000 copies and has grown into a 24-page publication with 6,000 copies, circulated to key stakeholders in the fields of science/biotechnology at the universities, research institutes, government agencies, ministries, economic corridors, state offices, biotechnology companies, cabinet members and the Parliament of Malaysia. With a strong belief that science should reach the public, The Petri Dish is circulated to shopping malls, private hospitals, Starbucks outlets, Malaysian airports, and secondary schools. The online version was introduced in March 2017.

Jom Science Malaysia

Jom Science, Malaysia! (JSM!) is a social media-based project to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities in Malaysia to global audience. This project is an initiative of MABIC, curated by Dr Ju Lin Tan, who graduated from La Trobe University and has a strong interest in science communication. In Malaysia, “Jom” is an informal way of inviting someone to participate in an activity. JSM! is inviting scientists to promote their work in Malaysia, and welcomes the general public to embrace science and make it a part of their culture and lifestyle. Creating science idols and putting them in the public domain to inspire students to pursue STEM education and career is something that needs to be strengthened in Malaysia and JSM! fills in this void.

The logo of JSM! is inspired by neurons that function to transmit and process information. Just like neurons, a society that is science literate will be at the leading edge, quick to respond to changes, and be able to make informed decisions.

Stem Promotion Towards a high income and innovative nation with STEM as its pillars

In the age of gene technology, digitalisation and industry revolution, we need more youth trained in STEM, who are keen to pursue careers in these areas. This is important for nation building to solve the global challenges of today and tomorrow. The 21st century skills such as problem solving, analytic thinking, gathering and evaluating information and data are crucial and these skills are developed in STEM disciplines. However, developing talent in STEM areas is a growing global challenge as countries are seeing a decline in interest among students to pursue STEM education. At MABIC, we realise it is necessary to expose students to the fascinating world of STEM to increase the number of STEM students in schools and universities.

STEM workshops for schools

MABIC’s workshops for students are designed to be fun, inspiring and informative. We offer lots of hands-on sessions, talks by experts giving insights into latest technologies and career opportunities, the education pathway to get into STEM fields, and interactive sessions where students could pose their queries. We work with multiple collaborators and workshops are held at schools or at universities and research institutes where students get a taste of being in real laboratories.

Gamification of STEM

Learning should be fun and interactive and gamification is one way to pique students’ curiosity and interest on STEM. MABIC has a number of prototypes developed and it is our aim to offer games that will be appealing and informative to a broad spectrum of  students and the general public. We believe this will bring STEM to the living rooms, parties and any gatherings.

Science-based policies and regulationsto embrace the potential of modern biotechnology

Many applications of modern biotechnology are highly regulated such as genetic modification, gene-editing, gene drive. In the fields of medical biotechnology, drug development, stem cell and gene therapies, and cloning are subjected to regulations. To realise the full potential of modern biotechnology, the benefits and risks of modern biotechnology must be assessed based on science and evidence. It is critical for lawmakers, policymakers, regulators and scientists to have a strong understanding of technologies and international legal instruments to develop enabling policies and regulations.

Asian Short Course on Agribiotechnology, Biosafety Regulations and Communication (ASCA)

ASCA was developed realising the need for a capacity building programme on biosafety closer to home for Asian policymakers, regulators, scientists and industry players. There is also a critical need to build institutional memory among Asian universities on biosafety and its historical background and make them the centre of excellence in this area. ASCA helps Asian stakeholders understand the international biosafety regulatory instruments, and how they impact national biosafety systems, enabling them to develop and implement national regulatory framework.

ASCA addresses topics relevant to

Convention on Biological Diversity

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

The Nagoya-KL Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress

The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (NP-ABS)

Regulators related to genetic modification, gene editing, gene drive and synthetic biology

The objectives of ASCA

To raise awareness on how decisions taken at the COPMOPs relate to national systems

To raise awareness and encourage discussion on priority items of upcoming COPMOPs

To support active participation and negotiation of Asian delegates at the upcoming COPMOPs in articulating Asia’s interests in the technology and research

To identify and nurture opportunities for alignment based on national/ regional/inter-regional priorities and capacities

To create awareness on emerging technologies such as gene editing, gene drive and synthetic biology and regulations related to them

This is an biennial workshop with the following partners

Partnering organisations

Asian preparatory and debriefing workshops in relation to International Biodiversity Meetings

MABIC actively organises preparatory workshops for Asian stakeholders who attend Conventional on Biological Diversity (CBD) Meetings and those who are responsible for their national regulatory framework. The objectives of these workshops are

To raise awareness on the main characteristics of functional national regulatory systems and how decisions taken at COPMOPs relate to national systems

To raise awareness on priority items of COPMOP meetings

To support active participation and negotiation of Asian delegates at upcoming COPMOPs in articulating Asia’s interests in modern biotechnology

To identify and nurture opportunities for alignment based on national/ regional/inter-regional priorities and capacities

Making science communication a mainstream discipline for science to reach the public

Science communication is a relatively new field in the developing world and rigorous capacity building is needed to develop a cadre of scientists who are able to effectively engage with the public and other key stakeholders. Given the complexity of the subject and the heterogeneity of the target audience, science communication training and academic programmes are MABIC’s priority areas.

Science Communication Training Workshops

MABIC is the pioneer in developing structured science communication training modules in Malaysia. Our workshops on communicating science is specifically designed to help researchers, engineers, technopreneurs and postgraduate students to effectively communicate their research to non-technical stakeholders such as policymakers, investors, industry players, media, farmers, the general public, and other non-technical stakeholders to whom their research and technologies matter. The workshops aim at bringing research to the public domain to increase industry participation, funding opportunities, policies and regulations to support R&D, gain media coverage and consumer appreciation and acceptance towards emerging technologies.

MABIC offers customised training workshops, designed for a small group of participants incorporating self-reflection, interaction, hands-on sessions and working in groups to effectively grasp the fundamentals of communicating science to the public.

MABIC also offers risk communication workshops for scientists and regulators involved in research areas that attract polarised debate and highly controversial in nature such as genetic engineering, gene editing, gene drive, stem cell therapy, cloning and nuclear technology among others.

Learning is fun in these workshops that incorporates creative approaches to communicate complicated research areas.

Talent development in STEMfor nation building

Biotechnology sector requires graduates with multidisciplinary skills and knowledge. At MABIC, we collaborate with various partners to support talent development for this industry.

Mentoring graduates

MABIC plays a pivotal role in offering internship placement for Malaysian undergraduates in biological and life sciences fields. Interns are exposed to the biotechnology network, industries, policies and regulations. Enhancement of soft skills is a priority at MABIC to ensure our interns are ready to enter the competitive working world. Science communication is another area of importance where interns get hands-on training on translating research into popular science articles.

Undergraduates from both public and private universities, including universities outside Malaysia have served as interns at MABIC. MABIC welcomes any students who wish to have a taste of a career in biotechnology and science communication. We are also open to mass communication and journalism students.