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ATPS Brings African Science Journalists together to Enhance Reporting of Science, Technology and Innovation

“For Africa to prosper, considerable investment in science, technology and innovation is mandatory, science journalists should generate the pressure needed to influence this priority shift and the required resource allocations.” Dr Kevin Urama

Nairobi, August 2, 2010: The African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) in collaboration with Science Africa Ltd. hosted a sensitization workshop aimed at strengthening the capacities of Africa’s science journalists to report more effectively on the centrality of science technology and innovation in addressing global challenges such as climate change.

Participants during the ATPS Africa-Wide Media Workshop on Effective Reporting of Science, Technology and Innovation, held at the Nairobi, Safari Club from July 26 – 28, 2010.Participants during the ATPS Africa-Wide Media Workshop on Effective Reporting of Science, Technology and Innovation, held at the Nairobi, Safari Club from July 26 – 28, 2010. (Click to enlarge)The workshop, which was held from July 26 – 28, 2010 in Nairobi, attracted 30 new and experienced print, radio and television journalists drawn from 14 ATPS member countries including Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Some of the key guests and resource persons who were present during the workshop included; Dr. Edwardina Ndhine, representing the Executive Secretary of the Kenya National Council for Science and Technology (NCST), Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak; ATPS Executive Director, Dr Kevin Urama; President of the African Federation of Science Journalists (AFSJ), Mr. Diran Onifade; Prof. Francis Mwaura, representing the Kenya Chapter of ATPS; and Mr. Otula Owuor, Director of Science Africa Ltd.

African scientists are often recognized and celebrated more in the North than they are at home and this has contributed to the low public perception of science, technology and innovation in Africa. Development issues such as poverty eradication; as well as emerging technologies with the potential of improving the livelihood of Africans always go under reported in many African media outlets, which tend to favour reports on conflicts, crisis and emergencies because of the perception that they sell more. As a result, a gap has been left between innovation and its potential to eradicate poverty in Africa, despite the continuous evolution and development of scientific research. The workshop therefore highlighted the vital role that the media needs to play in the dissemination of new and emerging technologies by highlighting the impact of such technologies on people’s lives.

There was a lot to learn and share during the event, which saw the journalists pledge to identify and celebrate home grown scientists and their innovations, in order to help rebrand Africa positively. “African governments too have an important role to play in mustering the political will needed to create an enabling policy environment for science, technology and innovation to thrive.” These were the sentiments echoed by Dr. Edwardina Ndhine from the Kenya National Council of Science and Technology.

Dr Ndhine urged the science journalists to scale up efforts to promote ideas that alleviate the living conditions of the most vulnerable in the society by showcasing indigenous and adaptable knowledge, research, technologies and innovations.  She noted that science, technology and innovation have an important place in Kenya’s vision 2030 and in driving the country towards economic growth and prosperity.

Science journalism is a bridge between science, scientists and the public,” she said, adding that; “journalists are key players in dissemination of information on science, technology and innovation, leading to critical government legislation and the State’s commitment to implementing these policy decisions.” She appealed to the media organizations represented to dedicate serialized columns, features and regular programmes to cover different scientific and technological issues.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Dr. Kevin Urama, the ATPS Executive Director, who pointed out that “journalists should work towards raising awareness about the contribution of science, technology and innovation to the economic, social and environmental sustainability pillars of development in Africa.” For Africa to prosper, considerable investment in science, technology and innovation is mandatory and he called upon the journalists present to generate the pressure needed to influence this priority shift and the required resource allocations.

The workshop combined presentations from invited speakers with a series of practical learning exercises and structured discussion groups aimed at sharing and strengthening both emerging and established science communication methods and approaches. Mr. Elijah Njoroge a long-standing science illustrator demonstrated how cartoons and illustrations can be used in reporting to popularize science, technology and innovation.

Ms. Brenda Zulu, an independent ICT journalist compelled those present to explore the dynamic tools and avenues that social media offers to reach out to wider audiences. She gave a presentation on the use of blogs as a means of popularizing innovations among the youth in ways that they can easily relate with. She urged them to capitalize on the growing number of African readers who are increasingly turning to blogs in search of stories that they are not always able to find in the traditional mainstream media.

It is hoped that the training will enable science journalists in Africa play a bigger role in improving the quality and quantity of scientific reporting on development issues facing continent. Journalists present gave their commitment to better utilize their influence to help shape the agenda through their reporting. These commitments, which are carried in a communiqué, adopted by the participants after the workshop, recognize the role of Africa’s science journalists in shaping a positive perception of the region through science, technology and innovation. The journalists came to a consensus on the following:

  1. There is need for effective science communication, focusing on African solutions to Africa’s problems
  2. African Governments need to start engaging science journalists actively at the beginning stages of policy formulation dialogues and throughout the entire process
  3. The mass media have the power to set the public agenda and compel African Governments to exercise the political will needed to implement transformational development polices by creating an enabling policy environment for science, technology and innovation
  4. There is need to re-invigorate and inspire science journalists both at national and regional levels and promote a renewed sense of hope and confidence in Africa’s renaissance through science, technology and innovation.
  5. Science journalists have the potential to become catalysts for change by re-branding Africa positively. One way is by identifying and celebrating homegrown scientists and their innovations
  6. Science journalists can help define science and make it relevant and, through their approach to reporting of science, technology and innovation, increase demand from editors for these stories
  7. Scientific bodies, including research institutions and scientific academies should actively support science journalists and provide better access to international peer reviewed journals as sources of scientifically credible information.
  8. On their part, science journalists need to promote balanced and factual reporting of STI through in-depth research and applying the core principles of science reporting to improve the quality of science coverage in Africa.

Besides improving the reporting skills, the other focus of the workshop was to identify ways of bringing the various national science journalists’ networks together under the umbrella of the rejuvenated and reorganized African Federation of Science Journalists (AFSJ). Cross-fertilization of ideas and experience between members of these networks was also encouraged.

Posted on Monday 2nd August, 2010




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