PAIRING SCIENTISTS WITH JOURNALISTS IS TO BOOST SCIENCE COMMUNICATION
By: Jacky Achan
Researchers in the field of Science have been asked to help the Ugandan media fully understand their trade and file informative reports on their projects other than indulge in politicking.
Patrick Luganda a Global Media Trainer and Communications Advisor on the Geneva based Commission for Climatology in the World Metrology Organization advised while speaking to the WIMEA-ICT Researchers at Makerere University.
“You have had people who are probably researchers/scientists, who are all the times in the media talking about politics or social issues. Surely they are such powerful brains they should be giving society the benefit of their knowledge,” he says
“Scientists must take advantage of the knowledge they have, to better inform their society to make informed decisions,” he added.
Luganda explained the channels for Science communication is there but the challenge is the personnel to communicate.
“We have Science journalists in Uganda but those same journalists are court and sports reporters, they are a jerk of all trades very few of them have taken the initiative to up their skills or have received specialized training and that’s the big challenge,” he explained.
Luganda says there is a need now to build a critical mass of Science journalists and to use the existing media channels just like business and political sectors do, to promote the understanding and use of Science.
“The critical mass of media personnel who make the Science sector functional is not there and the few who are there are either poached by NGOs, go for better paying jobs or have to divide their time in other sectors within the media,” he said.
He adds: “Science reporters are either too stretched or too few and people who are in journalism school where specialization should start graduate without knowledge on how to report on science, or are not comfortable reporting science altogether.”
Luganda commended the Introduction of communication as a course unit with Science disciplines at Makerere University
“At school is where the training should start followed by in-house training within the media houses and then linking or pairing journalists with scientists. A journalist will work with a Science institution for six months, one year and within that period fully build their Science communication capacity,” he elaborated.
“In Science communication we need people within the Science community help the media report better,” he adds.
But Luganda says building Science communication needs long term programs to achieve the set goal.
Scientists need to have communication inbuilt within systems so that even if you are developing a project the communication component particularly media communication is there.
“Scientists will build widespread capacity where they are able to communicate and where even journalist are able to easily pick out what to report,”
Luganda emphasized that Scientists cannot stand alone because they serve a society best understood by the arts.
“The arts do their research and daily work in society while the scientists do their work in the labs or work with machines. To transfer what scientists are doing in the labs to benefit the common person or for it to be internalized by the common person/public they need the arts where journalists fall,” he explained.
Luganda said if projects can pick interest in the communication component, build it from the very beginning of the project life cycle to it known through public awareness and the project being informative and beneficial to society, in building communication from the very beginning will help realize this goal.