At least 80 science journalists, communicators, scientists and researchers from Eastern Africa gathered on November 23-24, 2015 in Nairobi for the second Kenya Science Journalists Congress 2015. Over 30 presentations from different science and research organizations were made during the two-day congress widely hailed as a catalyst for science communication in the region.The first congress was held in the city in September 2013. It was organized by the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture in Kenya (MESHA).
Health, agriculture and environmental issues featured prominently with stakeholders calling for more similar initiatives.
“The demand by science and research organizations to participate in the congress was overwhelming and we could not accommodate all of them,” said Aghan Daniel, Secretary of MESHA. “This means that there remains a huge gap in science communication to be filled.”
Six other journalists from Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Rwanda attended the congress. “MESHA is setting the pace for science journalism and communication in Africa and its example should be emulated,” said Otula Owuor, a veteran science journalist and MESHA patron.
Participants also benefitted from a training on data journalism organized by the African Population Research Centre (APRC).
“Using data and information to enhances stories, provides more contextual and nuanced information, and drives people to use your reporting to act, to question and to change,” said Lauren Gelfand, Director of Policy Engagement and Communication at the APRC.
There were also calls for African governments to increase funding to science and research. Deborah-Fay Ndlovu from the African Academy of Sciences noted that though funding has been rising steadily, there was still more to be done to bridge the gap in research. The continents contribution to research remains low standing at less than two per cent of global research output.
But it has also been often pointed out that Africa’s development challenges partly lie in failure to effectively communicate research output to the public, explained Otula Owuor noting that “uncommunicated science is waste.”
According to Mr. Otula, journalists must be adequately trained to understand science research and to communicate effectively using ordinary language.
“One of the objectives of the congress was to allow science institutions in the region to disseminate their research and network with the journalists who participated in the congress,” said Aghan Daniel, Secretary, MESHA.
The congress was supported by the African Population and Health Research Centre, International Potato Centre, WASH Alliance Kenya, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Global Health Strategies and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative.
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