Charles Menzie, SETAC Executive Director

In September 2020, I will join a global train of scientists, engineers and environmental managers, who will journey to the SETAC 8th World Congress, which takes place from 6–10 September 2020 in Singapore. Together, we will participate in what may well be the most internationally far-reaching SETAC World Congress to date. I am especially pleased that we will be joined by colleagues from other leading professional societies, such as the Society of Toxicology (SOT), Society of Risk Analysis (SRA), International Society of Exposure Scientists (ISES) and global organizations, such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and The World Bank, along with many organizations and government ministries from the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.

Meeting attendance at Ecotox 2019

Photo of attendance at the 6th National Ecotoxicology Conference

Earlier this year, I represented SETAC at the 6th National Ecotoxicology Conference (Ecotox 2019) and associated 2019 International Symposium on Chemicals Risk Prediction and Management (ISCRPM-2019) in Guanzhao, China. These were facilitated in part by SETAC Asia-Pacific President Jing You, who is a Professor at the School of Environment, Jinan University. I was impressed that almost 2,000 ecotoxicologists and chemists came together for Ecotox 2019. I snapped one photo that captured and reflects the attention and enthusiasm among the many young faces. SETAC had a booth set up in this hall near where I took that photo, and there was huge curiosity about and tremendous interest in our organization.

Over the past several years, SETAC Asia-Pacific has built and strengthened bridges throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and we are looking forward to greeting many colleagues from academia, business and government from the region. As you are aware, there are important environmental issues as well as amazing environmental research going on in the region. This covers many longitudes and latitudes and habitats of all terrestrial, aquatic and marine types.

While in China, I had the opportunity to participate in a SETAC Asia-Pacific focus workshop on “Environmental Pollution and Health in Coastal Zones Along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.” I was struck at the similarity of issues being considered here and those that are the focus of our other Geographic Units. What I found particularly interesting about the workshop was: 1) the bringing together of experts to discuss pollution issues and possible assessments and solutions across 20 countries from across the Maritime Silk Road extending from Africa to the Pacific rim; 2) the expert workgroup methodology with cross-workgroup consultation, and 3) the outcomes that led to a prioritization of research needs by geographic region. Many of the countries have limited economic resources, and it was very interesting to consider how to address the most significant environmental challenges within available resources. A key question was what should be the first steps? The themes being addressed at this workshop and at other SETAC workshops around the globe prelude the sessions that will be brought forward in Singapore. Especially interesting to me was the attention given to estuarine and marine systems. Additionally, there is a strong emphasis on ecology and how to best incorporate this discipline into ecotoxicology and risk assessment.

Our professional cousins – SOT, SRA, ISES and others – along with organizations, such as National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS), UNEP, The World Bank and others, are interested in collaborations for sessions and trainings at the World Congress. This is an opportunity for SETAC members to step forward and engage. If you would like to collaborate across organizations around topics of common interest, please submit a session proposal by 1 December or a training course proposal by 25 March. To make connections, you can email me at charlie.menzie@setac.org or Tamar Schlekat at tamar.schlekat@setac.org. Topics identified to us by these organizations include life cycle analyses, development of animal alternatives for chemical testing, high-throughput screening, adverse outcome pathways, plastics, PFAS, emerging contaminants, one-health, human and ecological risk assessments, leading-edge methods for exposure assessment, mercury, metal contamination, persistent organic pollutants, sustainability, decision analysis, and resilience. These already fit within the broad scope of the World Congress, but making ties with collaborators from other organizations is an opportunity we should capture.

In addition to the convergence of scientists and engineers in Singapore, we expect convergence of certain SETAC global initiatives. For several years, we have been working on the Global Horizon Scanning Program (GHSP) that yielded sets of research questions formulated and evaluated by SETAC members from all parts of the globe. Papers have been published from these efforts, and research programs are being established. This is a SETAC success story that we will celebrate in Singapore. Importantly, this effort will set a foundation for research agendas and proposals over the coming years. We have also been holding workshops within all parts of the globe on risk assessment and the use of weight-of-evidence approaches. There have been seven workshops thus far. Each of these involve representatives from academia, business and government. Special emphasis has been given to bringing government ministries together to learn about risk assessment. The World Congress will be the opportunity to bring all these efforts together with the goal of building a set of global guidelines that are especially helpful for countries that are seeking to advance risk-based approaches for chemicals management.

Finally, the World Congress will provide an opportunity to share our science from around the globe. If insights can be gained from any SETAC meeting, a World Congress such as the one being planned for Singapore is sure to provide us with a broad base of insight and opportunity. I am inviting you to join me in Singapore. This will be my last meeting as SETAC’s Global Executive Director. I am enthusiastic about it and look forward to sharing the experience with you.

All of our Geographic Units are considering how to assist attendees interested in participating in the World Congress. We are also working with SETAC Global Partners and others to assist in this important international event.

Author’s contact information: charlie.menzie@setac.org

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