The World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) corporate communications team at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, have launched a joint project for a series of webinars to support science journalism globally. The goal of the webinars is to provide a platform for conversations between WFSJ members and WHO senior scientists.
Via the webinars, WHO’s technical expertise will be explained and made available to science journalists to facilitate their work and to provide opportunities for direct exchange with WHO leaders and experts. Engaging with and listening to science journalists will also help WHO adapt its communications and knowledge-transfer practices to meet the challenges and needs of science journalism in times of pandemic.
“Science journalists are key to disseminating the latest scientific news,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, during the launch of the webinar series. He emphasized WHO’s commitment to working with science journalists around the world and announced the partnership with the WFSJ.
The first webinar, held on 25 June 2020, focused on the difficulties that rapidly changing and emerging scientific evidence (in the midst of a pandemic) poses for science journalism. The webinar was attended by more than 100 science journalists and writers and delivered in the six official UN languages plus Portuguese. Registered participants came from 37 countries and a diverse range of media: broadcast (national and international), TV, radio, online media, national science communication associations, research portals, news agencies, mainstream national newspapers, specialized scientific magazines, blog platforms (columnists and bloggers), experts from national health and/or medical authorities, and from not-for-profit entities.
The speakers were Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme; Sylvie Briand, director of WHO’s Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness department; and Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical lead at the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
The second webinar was held on 29 July 2020. The topic dealt with mental health and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in times of pandemic: how the science is evolving and what we can learn. The speakers were Dévora Kestel, director of the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse; Bente Mikkelsen, director of the Department of NCDs at WHO; and Cherian Varghese, WHO’s coordinator for the Management of NCDs. Two hundred twenty science journalists from 38 countries signed up for the webinar.
The first webinar was co-moderated by Vera Novais, science journalist and board member of the Portuguese science communication association SciComPt. The second webinar was co-moderated by Valeria Román, science journalist and WFSJ’s project coordinator.