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First Makerere Workshop on Social Systems & Computation



Summary Top researchers from Northwestern University (Chicago), University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and Makerere (Kampala) are teaming up to offer a workshop on cutting-edge methods for computational modeling of social systems, algorithm design, and machine learning. The sessions will take place between December 3rd and 10th, and there is no cost for attendance; however, registration is mandatory.

Summary Top researchers from Northwestern University (Chicago), University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and Makerere (Kampala) are teaming up to offer a workshop on cutting-edge methods for computational modeling of social systems, algorithm design, and machine learning. The sessions will take place between December 3rd and 10th, and there is no cost for attendance; however, registration is mandatory.

Attendance is limited to academic staff working at a Ugandan university; students doing research in related areas may also be given special permission to attend if space permits. Participants will have the opportunity to publish papers in official, reviewed workshop proceedings at a later date. A certificate of completion will be provided to participants who attend at least two thirds of workshop sessions.

Overview Traditionally, computer science has viewed data as coming from either an adversarial source or from nature itself, giving rise to worst-case and average-case design and analysis of optimization algorithms. In recent years with the advent of modern technologies like the Internet, it has become increasingly apparent that neither of these assumptions reflects reality. Data is neither adversarial nor average, but rather inputs to algorithms are constructed by a diverse set of self-interested agents in an economy, all aiming to maximize their own happiness. Thus the raw data is often not available to an algorithm designer, but must be solicited from the agents–that is, the designer faces an economic constraint. The primary goal of this workshop is to explore the implications of this observation. We will study the performance of algorithms in the presence of utility-maximizing agents and ask whether alternate designs might create incentives for agents to act more optimally. Simultaneously, we will look at other more traditional optimization problems such as approximation and learning and techniques to solve them, pointing out that these may often be leveraged to solve issues in the economic setting.

Related Research Areas Computer Science Theory; Artificial Intelligence; Economics; Business

Format The workshop will consist of six 3-hour lectures, plus meal/breakout sessions for informal research discussion. Spaces are strictly limited, and attendees must pre-register. We will aim to select topics and session times that are best for our participants. To register, and to indicate your preferences for topics and dates, please complete the survey at

List of Candidate Topics The workshop will consist of up to six of the following twelve topics.

Introduction to Game Theory
Game theory is the mathematical study of interaction among independent, self-interested agents. It has been applied to disciplines as diverse as economics, political science, biology, psychology, linguistics—and computer science. This tutorial will introduce what has become the dominant branch of game theory, called noncooperative game theory, and will specifically describe normal-form games, a canonical representation in this discipline. The tutorial will be motivated by the question: "In a strategic interaction, what joint outcomes make sense?"

Voting Theory
Voting (or "Social Choice") theory adopts a“designer perspective” to multiagent systems, asking what rules should be put in place by the authority (the “designer”) orchestrating a set of agents. Specifically, how should a central authority pool the preferences of different agents so as to best reflect the wishes of the population as a whole? (Contrast this with Game Theory, whichadopts what might be called the “agent perspective”: its focus is on making statements about how agents should or would act in a given situation.) This tutorial will describe famous voting rules, show problems with them, and explain Arrow's famous impossibility result.

Mechanism Design and Auctions
Social choice theory is nonstrategic: it takes the preferences of agents as given, and investigates ways in which they can be aggregated. But of course those preferences are usually not known. Instead, agents must be asked to declare them, which they may do dishonestly. Since as a designer you wish to find an optimal outcome with respect to the agents’ true preferences (e.g., electing a leader that truly reflects the agents’ preferences), optimizing with respect to the declared preferences will not in general achieve the objective. This tutorial will introduce Mechanism Design, the study of identifying socially desirable protocols for making decisions in such settings. It will describe the core principles behind this theory, and explain the famous "Vickrey-Clarke-Groves" mechanism, an ingenious technique for selecting globally-utility-maximizing outcomes even among selfish agents. It will also describe Auction Theory, the most famous application of mechanism design. Auctions are mechanisms that decide who should receive a scarce resource, and that impose payments upon some or all participants, based on agents' "bids".

Constraint Satisfaction Problem Solving
This hands-on tutorial will teach participants about solving Constraint Satisfaction Problems using search and constraint propagation techniques. This is a representation language from artificial intelligence, used to describe problems in scheduling, circuit verification, DNA structure prediction, vehicle routing, and many other practical problems. The tutorial will consider the problem of solving Sudoku puzzles as a running example. By the end of the session, participants will have written software (in Python) capable of solving any Sudoku puzzle in less than a second.

Bayesian methods and Probabilisitic Inference
Bayesian methods are commonly used for recognising patterns and making predictions in the fields of medicine, economics, finance and engineering, powering all manner of applications from fingerprint recognition to spam filters to robotic self-driving cars. This session will show how principles of probability can be used when making inferences from large datasets, covering issues such as prior knowledge and hyperpriors, the construction of "belief networks", and nonparametric methods such as Gaussian processes. Several applications will be demonstrated.

Computer Vision

It is useful to be able to automatically answer questions about an image, such as "is this the face of person X?", "how many cars are there on this street?" or "is there anything unusual about this x-ray?". This session will look at some of the current state of the art in computer vision techniques, including methods for representing the information in an image (feature extraction), and to recognise objects in an image given such a representation. We will particularly spend some time looking at approaches which have been found to work well empirically on object recognition, such as generalised Hough transforms, boosted cascades of Haar wavelet classifiers, and visual bag-of-words methods. Locally relevant applications in crop disease diagnosis, parasite detection in blood samples and traffic monitoring will be demonstrated as illustrating examples.

Learning Causal Structure from Data
Until a few decades ago, it was thought to be impossible to learn causes and effects from purely observational data without doing experiments. Sometimes, however, it is impossible to do experiments (e.g. in some branches of genetics), or experiments may be costly or unethical (e.g. situations in climate change or medicine), so the emergence of computational methods for distinguishing causes, effects and confounding variables is likely to have wide implications. Some principles are now understood for learning the causal structure between different variables, and this session will explain the most successful current approaches, their possibilities and their limitations.

Internet Search and Monetization
The internet is one of the most fundamental and important applications of computer science. Central to its existence are search engines which enable us to find content on the web. This module focuses on the algorithms like PageRank that these search engines use to help us find webpages. It also studies how these engines make money through advertising.

Social Networks
Social networks describe the structure of interpersonal relationships and have many alarmingly predictable properties. While most people have just a few friends, most social networks have at least a few very popular people. Furthermore, most people are closely linked to every other person so that a message (or an idea or a disease) can spread rapidly throughout the network. Finally, social networks tend to be fairly clustered — i.e., if two people share a common friend it is quite likely that they are also friends. This module will discuss the typical structures of social networks, models that explain these structures, and the impact of these structures on activities in the social network such as message routing or the adoption of new technologies.

Two-Sided Matching Markets
Many markets involve two “sides'' that wish to be matched to one another. For example, a marriage market matches women to men; a job market matches workers to employers. In such settings, people on each side have strict preferences over the options on the other side of the market. Hence, a woman Julie may like David best, John second best, and Christopher third. David on the other hand may prefer Mary to Julie. In such settings, what matches might we expect to form? Can these matches be computed by a centralized algorithm, a match-maker for example, and what are the corresponding incentives of the participants? These questions are of fundamental importance as such centralized algorithms are in use in many important markets. In many countries, medical students are matched to hospitals using such algorithms, or school children to schools.

Approximation Algorithms
In the field of algorithms, many tasks turn out to be computationally difficult. That is, the time to complete the task is fundamentally large compared to the size of the problem. For example, consider the problem of finding the optimal way to visit 10 cities, visiting each exactly once. To minimize travel time, one could test all possible travel schedules, but for 10 cities there are already 3.5M of them! Unfortunately, there is not a significantly quicker way to find the optimal solution. However, one can find an approximately optimal solution quickly. That is, with just a few things to check, one can design a schedule that takes at most 50% more time than the optimal one. In this module we showcase a few general techniques for computing approximate solutions to hard problems, including the use of randomization and linear programming.

Graph Theory
A graph is a combinatorial object consisting of nodes and edges, and is a extremely valuable abstraction of many practical problems. For example, nodes might represent jobs and edges might connect pairs of jobs that can not be performed simultaneously. Alternatively, nodes might represent electronic components on a circuit board and edges the wiring that connects them. Many questions that arise in such domains can be cast as an optimization question in the corresponding graph. The number of workers required to complete all jobs in fixed time frame in the first example is at its heart a graph coloring problem. Asking whether one can lay out the circuit board so no two wires cross becomes the problem of determining which graphs have planar representations. This course defines graphs, shows how to solve a few fundamental graph problems, and applies them to practical settings.

Speaker Bios

Nicole Immorlica  is an assistant professor in the Economics Group of Northwestern University's EECS department in Chicago, IL, USA. She joined Northwestern in Fall 2008 after postdoctoral positions at Microsoft Research in Seattle, Washington, USA and Centruum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She received her Ph.D. from MIT in Boston, MA, USA, in 2005 under the joint supervision of Erik Demaine and David Karger. Her main research area is algorithmic game theory where she investigates economic and social implications of modern technologies including social networks, advertising auctions, and online auction design.

Kevin Leyton-Brown is an associate professor in computer science at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He received a B.Sc. from McMaster University (1998), and an M.Sc. and PhD from Stanford University (2001; 2003). Much of his work is at the intersection of computer science and microeconomics, addressing computational problems in economic contexts and incentive issues in multiagent systems. He also studies the application of machine learning to the automated design and analysis of algorithms for solving hard computational problems.

John Quinn is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at Makerere University. He received a BA in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge (2000) and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh (2007). He coordinates the Machine Learning Group at Makerere, and his research interests are in pattern recognition and computer vision particularly applied to developing world problems.

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Rotary International President visits Mak



The Chairperson of Council, Mrs Lorna Magara (L) presents a plaque to Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta in appreciation of his visit and invaluable service, 15th September 2021, CTF1, Makerere University.

By Hasifa Kabejja

Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta has appreciated Makerere University for supporting and carrying forward the newly introduced programme aimed at advancing peace on the African Continent. Launched in January 2020, the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University runs a postgraduate diploma programme in Peace-building and Conflict Transformation. The hands-on program entails coursework that addresses topics including human rights, governance, and the role of the media in conflict. Other studies focus on refugees and migration, as well as resource and identity-based conflicts.

At a high level meeting held with the University leadership on 15th September 2021 at CTF1, President Shekhar Mehta said Rotary International was proud to be partnering with Makerere to promote peace on the African Continent. “The mere absence of war does not translate into total peace. Besides war, there are many other factors undermining peaceful co-existence. It is our duty to address these issues so as to create harmony in our communities. Through the Rotary Peace Centres across the globe, we are undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at promoting peace. Since 2002, the Rotary Peace Centres have trained more than 1,300 fellows who are working to advance peace in more than 115 countries. We are happy to work with Makerere University to foster peace and development on the African Continent,” he noted.   President Shekhar Mehta, who was on a three-day tour of Rotary projects in Uganda, was visiting Makerere for the first time since the University won the bid to host the International Rotary Peace Centre, the first of its kind on the African Continent.

President Shekhar Mehta, who was in company of past and current Governors of Districts 9213 and 9214, said peace was a necessary catalyst for the progress of humanity and general development of nation states across the globe. Elected for the 2021-22 term, President Shekhar Mehta, through his year theme Serve to Change Lives, asks Rotarians to participate in service projects where they can make a difference in their communities and the people who live in them. Since he joined Rotary in 1984 as a member of the Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar, West Bengal, India, President Shekhar Mehta has led many major service initiatives in India and South Asia, including among others, constructing 500 homes for Tsunami survivors at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and starting the Shelter Kit programme in India which has served about 20 disasters and benefited about 75,000 disaster victims. 

Delivering her remarks, the Chairperson Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara appreciated Rotary International for entrusting Makerere University with the mandate to host the first rotary peace centre on the African Continent. “Choosing to house the Centre at Makerere University shows Rotary International’s trust and confidence in Makerere and her vision for building for the future. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of Rotary International’s agenda. We also sincerely appreciate Rotarians all over the world who have committed funds to support the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University,” she noted. Similarly, she appreciated The Rotary Foundation (TRF) of Canada for setting up an endowment fund for the Peace Centre. “This will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of the Peace Centre at Makerere University. The fund will help in the Capstone week where Fellows will present their social initiatives. These initiatives will showcase how the Rotary Peace Centre contributes to positive peace initiatives all over the world.”

In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe informed the President that the decision to establish the first Rotary Peace Centre in Africa at Makerere University was welcomed with ‘excitement and gratefulness’. “We consider this to be a vote of confidence in our efforts in the peace and conflict resolution agenda. We extend our appreciation to Rotarians in Uganda and beyond for selflessly supporting this noble cause.” The Vice Chancellor appreciated the leadership of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere, and the Director of the Centre, Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala for their tireless efforts in ensuring the centre achieves the intended objective.

By the end of this year, the Centre will have hosted two cohorts of peace fellows. The first cohort was at Makerere University between February and May, 2021. Currently, these Peace fellows are carrying out their peace initiatives in their communities. The second cohort will report on September 27, 2021. In both cohorts, Peace Fellows were chosen from 20 countries and by the end of the year, the Centre will have had a total of 36 Fellows.

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Intentionality Key to Nurturing More Women Leaders



The "Enhancing Women’s Participation and Visibility in Leadership and Decision-Making Organs of Public Universities in Uganda through Action Research" Phase One Study dissemination poster for the event held on 14th September 2021, CTF1, Makerere University and Online.

The Gender Mainstreaming Directorate (GMD), Makerere University on 14th September 2021 presented findings from phase one of the study on Enhancing Women’s Participation and Visibility in Leadership and Decision-Making Organs of Public Universities in Uganda through Action Research. The study team led by the Director GMD and Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine also consists of Assoc. Prof. Consolata Kabonesa, Dr. Anna Ninsiima, Ms. Frances Nyachwo, Ms. Susan Mbabazi and Mr. Eric Tumwesigye.  

The team is also made of coordinators from participating Universities such as Busitema University-Ms. Elizabeth Birabwa, Kabale University-Sr. Dr. Eva Tumusiime, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)-Dr. Specioza Twinamasiko, Muni University-Ms. Amandru Stella Wawa, and Gulu Univeristy-Sr. Rosalba Aciro.

Funded by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the study was inspired by the fact that women are persistently few in numbers as staff, more so in leadership and decision-making organs of Ugandan Public Universities. “This is despite all the various efforts at national and international levels; the numbers are not growing as fast as needed to meet development goals of the country” explained Dr. Euzobia.

Based on this background, the study team therefore sought to conduct a situational analysis of the gender terrain of the six public universities to obtain baseline information encompassing the composition of governance and leadership organs and senior staff by sex, as well as a needs assessment and profiles of potential mentors and mentees.

Furthermore, the team sought to explore the capacity to conduct gender-responsive research as well as the role of male staff engagement in gender equity interventions within the universities as the drivers of development.

Dr. Mugisha-Baine shared that results of the baseline would then be used to design participatory training manuals or guides on gender and leadership. The manuals would cover; Institutionalized mentorship, How to conduct gender-responsive research, gender and equity budgeting, among others.

The Director GMD, Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine
The Director GMD, Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine

 “Within these manuals, we shall have a male staff engagement strategy in gender equity interventions in universities” she explained.

The development of the aforementioned materials would then be followed by their adoption and use to build capacity for women not only in leadership of participating and other public university but also beyond. “We shall periodically evaluate whether the capacity we have built has influenced women’s participation in leadership and decision-making organs of the university” supplemented the PI.

The capacity building trainings for women, it is envisaged, will lay the foundation for the formation of a functional Uganda University Women’s Think Tank, starting with the six participating universities. Dr. Mugisha Baine added that through this Think Tank, a monitoring and tracking system for gender representation in recruitment, promotion, retention/turnover and leadership of public universities shall be established and maintained.  

At the conclusion of phase one, the study team had drafted participatory training manuals in gender and leadership with content on; gender specific critical analysis of the leadership spectrum of public universities, positioning of individual women within the institutional framework and strategies for their advancement, gender equity advocacy in the university setting, institutional mentorship, building capacity in conducting gender-responsive research, among others.

“This content will be validated by the participating universities before the actual research training is conducted” added the PI.

On behalf of the research team, Dr. Mugisha Baine thanked the Government of Uganda for providing the resources that facilitated phase one of the study and prayed that the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) would support the next phase of capacity building.

Speaking on behalf of the Mak-RIF GMC Chairperson, Prof. William Bazeyo, Dr. Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala thanked and congratulated the team led by the Director GMD upon the milestones registered in the critical research.

“We are very proud of that work that is being done by all researchers in Mak-RIF and we would like to most sincerely thank Management for all the support throughout this process” she remarked.

Dr. Nkabala encouraged the research team to continue disseminating and using the findings for the furtherance of gender mainstreaming, particularly through the aspect of male staff engagement in gender equity interventions.  

The Executive Director, NCHE, Prof. Mary Okwakol. Courtesy Photo.
The Executive Director, NCHE, Prof. Mary Okwakol. Courtesy Photo.

Prior to delivering the keynote address of the day, the Executive Director National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) Prof. Mary Okwakol thanked the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe for inviting her to the important forum, noting that women’s participation in decision making and governance is a priority area of the Uganda Gender Policy 2007.  

She commended Makerere University for being at the forefront of gender mainstreaming in Uganda, noting that this prominence was one of the reasons why the Gender in Education Policy 2007 provides for replicating the institution’s strategy in all other Higher Education Institutions.   

Prof. Okwakol whose keynote address was punctuated incisive personal examples reaffirmed the statistics that women are generally not visible in leadership of Universities. That notwithstanding, in instances where they rise to leadership and decision-making positions, they are regularly subject to roles traditionally deemed as women’s inconsiderate of their managerial seniority and experience.

She nevertheless rallied the women to play their respective roles in enhancing participation and visibility at a personal level. The following were some of the strategies she proposed; work hard to acquire academic credentials so as to compete favourably with men, acquire necessary administrative training and experience, network among women, join professional networks as well as do research and publish.  

On joining professional networks, she shared her personal experience as a young zoologist who joined UNESCO’s Tropical Biology and Fertility Programme. “Within a short time I was appointed Coordinator for Africa and after two years, I was elected as a Member of the International Board of Management. After serving for two years, I became Vice Chairperson of that Board and finally I became Chairperson of that International Board.”

At the institutional level, Prof. Okwakol appealed to the Chairperson Council and Vice Chancellor to proactively recruit women who meet the requirements for leadership positions even if it means actively seeking out the reluctant ones. In this regard, she shared that it would be useful for the university to develop a database of women and their qualifications to ease this process.

She shared that NCHE has in recognition of female underrepresentation at every level in Higher Education approved the establishment of a Gender and Equity Unit with the aim of promoting inclusive gender participation in the sub-sector.

“This unit has been placed under the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Accreditation which implies that as we look out for and regulate quality, gender will be a very important aspect of that regulation” she reassured.

Prof. Okwakol concluded by urging participants to read the; Third National Development Plan (NDPIII), Uganda Vision 2040, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) noting that there is no way all three can be achieved while women are left behind because they each make a case for inclusion of the female gender.  

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe follows proceedings during the dissemination.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe follows proceedings during the dissemination.

“What we are addressing here are historical injustices” said Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe as he commenced his remarks, “And in the case of Makerere University, it is well known that the institution started as a male-only institution and we all know the original motto was ‘Let us be men’” he added.

Citing examples from history such as; Marie Curie – one of the smartest physicists, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra – prominent Pharaohs of Egypt, George Eliot, Rosa Luxemburg and Hypatia – all great philosophers as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel – first female Chancellor of Germany, the Vice Chancellor said there is no plausible argument that there are things women cannot do as well as their male counterparts.

He said it was against this knowledge and in a bid to correct historical injustices that Makerere University pioneered initiatives such as putting in place affirmative action for girls, establishing a Gender Mainstreaming Directorate as well as a School of Women and Gender Studies. The Vice Chancellor nevertheless stressed the need to go beyond pioneering to protecting these gains through legislation. “Historically we have seen that discrimination can only be addressed by laws and policies.”

Prof. Nawangwe thanked the Government for providing funds to support Mak-RIF as well as the Funds GMC and Secretariat for ensuring that these funds are put to good use. He equally thanked the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara for her not only her support but also sparing time to attend a good number of the research dissemination events.

A screenshot of the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara delivering the concluding remarks.
A screenshot of the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara delivering the concluding remarks.

Delivering the concluding remarks, Mrs. Magara acknowledged that the study was timely and relevant the contemporary University, as one of the critical drivers of the national and international development agenda. She therefore reechoed the Vice Chancellor’s thanks to the Government of Uganda for generously supporting the University’s research through Mak-RIF.

Turning to the keynote speaker she said, “I thank Prof. Okwakol for ardently discussing the critical issues affecting the female gender, the strategies to overcome the challenges, including sharing her inspiring personal experiences.”

Mrs. Magara equally thanked Prof. Okwakol for her very instructional analysis, providing mentorship guidance with the resultant impact of enhancing the female gender in decision-making positions. In the same breath she congratulated the PI and her team upon successfully concluding phase one of the project.

“Phase one has generated insights in understanding the status of women in leadership in public universities, the legal and policy framework and its implications on women’s visibility, the institutional mentoring systems and the gaps therein” she observed.

The Chairperson of Council acknowledged that the challenge of underrepresentation of women in leadership roles cannot be resolved at an individual level. She therefore advocated for broad based strategies that can address deep-seated structural and cultural biases facing women. “These include developing mentorship networks, enacting laws and policies that address the imbalances and providing training programmes to address the leadership gaps.”

She therefore pledged the University Council’s unwavering support to the Gender Mainstreaming Programme by ensuring an enabling policy environment that facilitates gender-responsive teaching, learning, research innovation and community service.   

The research dissemination was moderated by the Principal Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ms. Ritah Namisango and the Director Communications, Learning and Knowledge Management, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and PRO Mak-RIF, Ms. Harriet Adong.

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Section Editors & Associate Editors Wanted-CABI Agriculture & Biosciences Journal



The CABI Agriculture and Biosciences Journal (CABI A&B) is still in search of both Associate Editors to join the CABI A&B Editorial Board, as well as a Regional Editor-in-Chief to lead for Africa in addition to serving as a Section Editor in the area of either Environmental and SOIL SCIENCE, AGROECOLOGY, OR AQUACULTURE AND FISHERIES. Ideally CABI wants Section Editors (SE) who are prominent members of their research communities, with high-level established positions at a research institution, with a strong, current record of international collaborations and publication, with an H-index of at least 25.  For Associate Editors (AE) we hope for researchers who have with established positions at a research institution (e.g., not post-docs or Ph.D. candidates), with a strong growing record of international collaborations and publication (e.g., around 8 publications in the past two years), and have an H-index of at least 15.

Very importantly, CABI hopes for SEs and AEs who are good communicators and are passionate about serving and building the journal to be an outlet for both large and small steps of sound science that will improve the lives and livelihoods of people worldwide.

Please see Downloads for the CABI EDITORIAL DIRECTORY

Interested applicants should email PHILIPPA J. BENSON, PH.D. MANAGING EDITOR | _CABI A&B | P.BENSON[at]CABI.ORG

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