Final Report on the 3rd Kavli Symposium on Science Journalism

The 3rd Kavli Symposium on Science Journalism (Washington, DC – February 15-17, 2016) had the ambitious goal of addressing ways to facilitate coverage of science through international collaboration.

The 55 participants from 10 countries were particularly interested in opportunities that collaboration can offer to alleviate challenges in accessing, appraising and tracking stories on some of the most pressing issues that face the world.READ MORE

Submit a Session Proposal for WCSJ2017 – NEW Deadline: October 11

The 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017) is announcing the Call for Session Proposals.

All science journalists, writers, bloggers, etc. are invited to submit expertly crafted proposals that consider professional development and scientific issues from an international perspective. Make WCSJ2017 in your conference by submitting a session proposal. Proposals are due October 11, 2016.READ MORE

How Much Does Your Country Invest in Research & Development (R&D)?

As the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gathers momentum, there has been a lot of noise about the ‘big ticket’ factors seen as fundamental for their achievement: immediate and sustained action, political will, adequate resources, equity … the list goes on. And it’s true. We need all of these and more. But there has been less clamour about the role of innovation, even though this will fuel progress on each and every SDG. And there has been barely a whisper about its foundation: research and development (R&D).READ MORE

Zambian Newspapers Should Report More on Science and Technology

Whenever I read Zambian newspapers, it baffles me that most of them do not have dedicated pages focusing on science and technology. Though there is a wider section of agriculture, very little covers health issues and even engineering.

Most of the articles that are typically published in the dailies debate politics, sports and personalities. Character assassination, gender-based violence, defilement, entertainment, culture, business and sport are the order of the day. Although this is good and important news, there is much more missing.

The same applies for talk shows on Zambian electronic media – radio and television. Only few radio stations in the country have dedicated programmes that discuss climate change and other related issues.

However, it is marveling to note that we do not have consistent media platforms that discuss research and discoveries by our own scientists, for instance. Does it mean a deliberate stage has not been shaped by our media industry for our scientists to communicate effectively? Science and technology is an important facet of our lives; and this needs to be reflected in media coverage.

In the few instances that stories from science and technology are published, this is often in their entirety from press releases or speeches made at events. Usually, there are no follow-up articles pursued for discussion. Some important stories on science and technology are completely disregarded. Does this mean that people are not interested in science communication? Due to lack of interest by media, some of the articles from these fields that are published might be considered breaking news by many Zambians, yet they could have been covered before.

BUT WHAT IS SCIENCE COMMUNICATION? 

Although scientists dialogue among, and with, each other about practice and research, they also need to communicate developments in their fields to wider audiences. This is where the media comes in to provide a platform for reaching wider public.

However, to effectively play this role, media should be keen about improved science communication. As Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Therefore, media should engage different disciplines to discuss science and technology issues, besides bringing experts on board to drive the agenda in science communication. Peer reviewed articles by scientists should be discussed in the media; and communication with the public should be shared in a much simpler way to be understood.

Both media and science specialists should consistently continue to build on the peer-reviewed articles published for a better understanding on scientific knowledge for non-experts. For example, issues raised by Tiyese Sakala in the Times of Zambia on the impact of climate change were highlighted in 2010. Today it may appear to be groundbreaking if reported especially if we ignore dedicated forums that discuss science and technology to sensitize the general public. Therefore, consistency in reporting science issues is very critical in order to keep abreast. Enhanced well-designed programmes can connect to discussions and generate interest from the public and students who can further be supported in their research.

In Zambia, it is not unique to see that science communication does not attract a lot of followers on social media; neither does it engage a lot of student associations to debate on science and technology. Perhaps more interaction is required to facilitate the scientists to highlight the world activities in science. Although media are agents of change, more education is required to make science visible. Therefore, without the appropriate skills in a given subject, programming and quality reporting on science-related themes could be challenging.

Today, we are informed that according to a UN Report, the world’s population will increase to 9.7 billion by 2050 and that this could threaten food security. Perhaps science desks would encourage the scientist to explore and share their knowledge to enlighten the general public on how this would impact on the world population either negatively or positively. Enriched interactive discussions can inspire students to take up science courses to increase the knowledge base and innovations.

Beyond acquiring a qualification in media studies, journalists should specialize in reporting science and technology. The government should promote huge investments in education and create a deliberate platform to encourage a culture of innovation and competition from the general public. Media should be proactive to stimulate debates with the champions of particular subjects on the positive and negative use of science and technology.

Ends…

Article by Ms. Veronica Mwaba who is a Lusaka-based communication practitioner.
Zambia, August 2016