SjCOOP TEN YEARS LATER


WHAT IS THE LEGACY OF SjCOOP?

During the next two months and more than 10 years after its launch, WFSJ will be analysing the lessons learned from the SjCOOP training program and its impact on the development of science journalism in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. We will be reconnecting with former mentees to look back on their experience and the impact it has had on their careers as science journalists. Through contacting individual mentees and mentors, we will map the trajectories of their professional lives and the reporting challenges they face today. An online in-depth survey is currently under development.

In addition, we will be contacting personally several mentees to discuss their overall experience with the project and their present needs to help advance their science journalism careers. The survey results and personal interviews will allow us to consider the relevance of launching a new SjCOOP, in which regions, its format and timeline. They will also provide us with solid arguments for future commitments to organizing capacity building programs and training opportunities for science journalists globally.


WHAT WAS SjCOOP?

Between 2006 and 2014, the WFSJ coordinated the Science Journalism COOPeration project or SjCOOP. This three-phase project aimed to advance science journalism in low- and middle-income countries. Experienced science journalists [mentors] trained aspiring science journalists [mentees] to increase the quality of their science reporting. The first two phases of the project, SjCOOP I (2006-2009) and SjCOOP II (2010-2013), took place in Africa and the Middle East. A third phase, SjCOOP Asia (2013-2014), trained journalists from Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Indonesia. 


A UNIQUE MENTORSHIP APPROACH 

The SjCOOP training methodology was unique and different from other capacity building programs like scholarships, workshops or university courses. While researching and developing a story, a mentee was accompanied by an assigned mentor allowing them to directly put into practice a mentor’s recommendations on how to write a more impactful science story. On a weekly basis, mentors would share their professional expertise and good practices. They would comment on mentees’ output and advise them on how to develop their careers as well as working relationships with researchers and scientists. Mentees often benefited from the input in the workplace, securing more space or time in newsrooms, which led to an increase in the number of science topics published.

Each individual phase of SjCOOP lasted almost two years and included an initial training for mentors, extended periods of peer-to-peer tutoring of mentees, face-to-face meetings and an evaluation period. In the ensuing phase of the project, some of the previous mentees became mentors themselves and several of them were the recipient of science journalism awards. Through fellowships, the mentees were able to attend international conferences, such as the World Conference of Science Journalists, where they could exchange with peers and participate in workshops to further improve their reporting skills and career.

Another key aspect of SjCOOP was the creation of several national and regional science journalists’ associations. In countries where no such association existed, mentees were assisted to establish, develop and manage associations. Twinning these freshly created associations with well-established organizations in North America and Europe increased the number of cross-border stories and the development of local training activities.


FAR-REACHING IMPACT
Overall, the SjCOOP program has had a very beneficial impact on the expansion of the science journalists’ community globally. Across 38 countries, SjCOOP trained 112 new science journalists and 14 new national science journalists’ associations were established.

These newly formed science journalists significantly increased the number and the quality of science reporting which, in turn, had a positive effect on the use of scientific evidence in policy-making in their countries. For instance, an evaluation of SjCOOP’s second phase showed that several of these science stories successfully influenced local authorities to respond to a precarious situation, such as in 2010 in Uganda where the government decided to speed up the delivery of CD4 machines to HIV patients and in Cameroon where a shortage of anti-tuberculosis medication was challenged. Authorities responded to the issue by increasing its availability.


GET IN TOUCH

For more information on SjCOOP or the current review of the project, please contact Jana Brunclikova via jbrunclikova@wfsj.org or via +1 514 508 2777.



SjCOOP IN ASIA

Science journalism COOPeration or SjCOOP in Asia was a mentoring project in science journalism in Southeast Asia. SjCOOP will twin experienced science journalists (mentors) with early-career journalists (mentees). Mentors will coach and mentor their mentees to improve mentees’ skills at covering agriculture, climate change, health, disaster reduction, energy, environment and other science and technology issues. Mentees (trainees) and mentors (trainers) will be organized into three groups: Vietnamese-speaking group, Bahasa Indonesian-speaking group, and an English-speaking group. Visit the SjCOOP Asia section on our old website


SjCOOP IN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

This project has two main objectives: mentoring of science journalists, and the establishment of associations of science journalists in Africa and the Middle East. Visit the SjCOOP section on our old website