Communicating science to Journalists and the layman

Research shows that science, technology, and innovation (STI) are entwined in the sense that they have to do with a lot of thinking, research work, and above all, the mind. BINTA SHAMA reports.

The importance of communicating science effectively is to be able to transmit the entirety of the message from the scientist to the general group which could make the receiver find it interesting and in other words, lead to negotiating the actual goal behind the message and in turn, lead to national development.

On the other hand, science is said to be increasingly interdisciplinary, with the ability to communicate more effectively across disciplines to foster collaboration and innovation. Thus, scientists being able to communicate the relevance and impact of their ideas and discoveries could enhance them the ability to secure funding or patronage.

Communicating science to journalists and the layman

Recently, the Nasarawa State University (NSU), Keffi, held its II International Conference on Science Communication and Development in Africa with the theme: Humanising Science; ‘optimising innovation and communication for development in Africa’, in collaboration with Makerere University, Uganda in Abuja.

The objective, is to bring African- scientists, academia, journalists on a dialogue to have a better understanding of the importance of STI which includes developments of capacity of scientists to leverage communication channels to disseminate information about their scientific innovations and technology in line with the desire to build a 21st century university that response to felt needs of its own community and nation by these scientists.

According to the vice-chancellor NSU, Professor Suleiman Bala Mohammed said that effective communication is a major problem in Africa compared to other contemporary countries.

“It is without doubt that effective communication is still a basic challenge in Africa, a situation that has impeded developmental process in the continents. In a fast developing world of sciences, the ability of the masses to adopt new technologies and innovations in scientific research lies squarely on effective transmission of the findings to the target beneficiaries,” the VC stated.

While declaring the event open, the Minister of State for Education Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba said the purpose is to stimulate sharing of experiences and as co-drivers take the continent to greater heights of successful development.

Giving more focus to STI

Earlier, the chairman, the Minister for State of Science and Technology, Barr. Mohammed Abudullahi called  for more attention in science and research for effective transmission to the target beneficiaries.

Abudullahi said the growth of Science and Communication will help develop the capacity of Scientist to control the media and other Communication channels to popularise their inventions. Adding that, the present Administration believes in science and technology which he therefore called for collaborations for effective transmission of its findings to the target beneficiaries.

“This explains the encouragement we give to our rich collection of research institutes developing research in various fields for commercialisation.

“I urge our parastatals and research institutes to partner with Nassarawa State University as it builds this significant Centre of excellence in science communication meant for developing the capacity of our scientists to leverage on the media and other communication channels to popularise their inventions”, he stated.

The Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Sscience and Technology, was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Bitrus Nabusu.

While delivering the key note address, the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Meteorological Agency(NIMET),Professor Abubakar Sani Mashi said the agency have been preoccupied with climate early warning system which is very vital for development.

He identified some of the challenges facing the agency as, very weak legal framework, lack of technology culture and lack of policy framework.

“We believe that if our capacity is enhanced, we will improve our communication services for better understanding, appriasal and communication of science news to the public effectively,” Mashi said.

Communicating findings by researchers

Speaking, the Vice Chancellor, Makerere University, Uganda said the initiative is to improve the capacity and opportunities for scientists and researchers to communicate their findings more effectively which holds the key to unlocking access by the communities to cutting-edge knowledge and also increase the capacity of journalist and communication specialist to appraise and communicate scientific research findings which will enable researchers to be more accountable for the knowledge they produce.

Science important in agriculture

In her remarks, the Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa, OFAB, Dr. Rose Maxwell Gidado, said effective science communication would help scientists to give meaning to research findings in Africa countries especially in the agricultural sector.

“The need for effective Science Communication is hinged on the premises that it helps scientists to give their work a meaning in the eyes of their stakeholders, be it farmers, policy makers, industry, consumers and the public in general.

“Taking the commercialization of Africa’s first GM food crops, GM cowpea, for instant, science communication can play a very vital role in letting the public know the numerous benefit this crop can bring in the development of our economy in terms of food security, poverty alleviation, agricultural revolution, job-creation, climate change mitigation and several others.

According to her, OFAB Nigeria drives advocacy campaigns on agricultural biotechnology and dispels misconception within the realms of genetic modification technology. “It is also about putting Science into use by helping the public understand research result and making informed choices,” she added.

The acting Director-General Sheda Science and Technology complex Abuja, Professor Paul Onyenekwe said the issues in the country, especially the issue of GMO taken by non-scientist which has overtaken science idea has made GMO look like monsters. Adding that the key problem in the country is food safety asides security.

He further said, realising the significance of effective and strategic communication in dissemination of scientific results to the populace has designed a programme code-named ‘strategic scientific sensitization through publications, scientific, technological and innovation exposition.’ This programme will involve regular engagement with the press, use of social media and production of regular bulletins where science, technology and innovation frequently asked questions will be addressed.

The Training Coordinator of SciDevNet in Uganda, Dr. Charles Wendo, in his presentation on Humanising Science for Development in Africa, said humanising Science would give Science a human character, solve tackle issues and make it more interesting.

Also speaking the Excecutive Director, Institute of Strategic and Development Communication, Professor, Emmanuel Dandaura, appreciated the Nigerian government and sponsors for making the conference a reality and hoping to create more awareness via this medium.

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