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The Soul Beat 185 - Science Communication in Africa

Issue #: 
October 26, 2011

In this issue of The Soul Beat:

Science plays an important role in helping the public and policy makers understand issues related to health, agriculture and food security, climate change and the environment, as well as technological advancements that impact on development in Africa. 

This issue of The Soul Beat looks at science communication in Africa and its role in promoting development. The newsletter includes programmes experiences, strategic thinking documents and resources that highlight the role of the media in science communication, the need to work with scientists and researchers, as well as work being done directly with schools and the public.

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1. Science Journalism COOPeration (SjCOOP) - Africa and Middle East
SjCOOP, initiated by the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), offers training in science and technology journalism focusing on journalists in Africa and the Middle East. Rolled out on two three-year phases, the goal of the programme is to create a bridge between scientists and the public; promote the role of science journalists as key players in democracy and development; and improve the quality of reporting to make science exciting to readers.

2. The African Federation of Science Journalists (AFSJ) - Africa
This is a pan-African network of journalists who cover science and allied disciplines such as technology, innovation, agriculture, health and climate change from the perspective of research and development. AFSJ's stated mandate is to improve the quality of science journalism in Africa through capacity building, mainstreaming African science journalists within the global context, and creating interactive platforms between African science journalists and scientists.

3. Africa Science Technology & Innovation News – - Africa
This is a platform for the dissemination of news, features, editorials, and significant developments in science, health, agriculture, and climate change on, and about Africa. Operated by a collection of African science journalists, the project is a news medium that aims to give a voice to scientists on the continent and in the Diaspora. The AfricaSTI team comprises journalists practising in over 20 African countries who have been exposed to global best practices in ethics, methodology, and style of science reporting.

4. Environmental Reporting for African Journalists: A Handbook of Key Environmental Issues and Concepts
By Akpezi Ogbuigwe and Angele Luh
Published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2006, this handbook was produced to provide readily available access to key environmental issues and concepts to journalists to help improve environmental reporting. Each section deals with a specific aspect of the environment and is designed to provide a quick but detailed reference guide for journalists on each topic. According to the publishers, the media play a strategic role in raising environmental awareness, channelling environmental information, and inspiring environmental action.

5. Teaching Radio Journalists to Report on HIV: A Manual for Trainers
By Mia Malan
This manual from 2008 consists of lesson plans, exercises, and a training agenda developed by Internews Networks' Local Voices programmes to train radio journalists in HIV reporting. According to the document, at least 70% of the training exercises focus on teaching radio reporting skills such as interviewing, scriptwriting, digital sound editing, and sound recording. The remaining content focuses on HIV-specific skills, such as language use and HIV-related knowledge. The Local Voices programme believes that radio journalists will only be able to use HIV knowledge effectively if they are given the opportunity to also develop their storytelling and reporting skills.

6. Improving Sexual and Reproductive Health Reporting in Kenya
To assess media coverage of sexual and reproductive health issues in Kenya, in 2010 Panos Eastern Africa, Panos London, and the African Population and Health Resource Center (APHRC), supported by the Wellcome Trust, implemented the Improving Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Reporting in Kenya project. The project included a scan and analysis of media coverage of SRH issues; mapping of SRH stakeholders; two community consultations; a training session for science journalists and communication staff on reporting research; and a multi-stakeholder forum to discuss results and make recommendations.



For more information on Science and Media (including programme experiences, resources, and events and trainings) go to the recently launched Soul Beat Africa Science and Media website.
Please also join our networking space click here.

(click on Create New Account) This is a space where science journalists and people working in the field can share information and collaborate.



7. RELAY: Communicating Research
Panos London has created this initiative to help build the capacity of the media to effectively communicate development research in southern countries - particularly, in Africa and Asia, working with partners Panos Eastern Africa in Uganda and Kenya and Panos South Asia Northeast India. RELAY works with journalists, editors, and researchers to build their skills and knowledge and improve relationships between these professional groups. RELAY is now focused on testing approaches and documenting and sharing learning generated by the programme.

8. Media Handbook for Development Researchers
By Peter G. Mwesigye, George W. Lugalambi, and Joel Okao
This handbook, produced by Panos Eastern Africa in 2008 as part of the RELAY Project, includes tools, resources, and tips for development researchers interested in opening up dialogue with the media as an avenue for disseminating their research. The handbook is designed to clarify the professional context of journalism, which development researchers must be aware of in their media outreach efforts. It offers a series of practical tips on how to effectively present and package development research for the media and for the benefit of their audiences. The handbook also gives some insights into the structure of the media industry and journalistic profession in Eastern Africa generally.

9. Strengthening Science - Policy Dialogue in Developing Countries: The Opportunities for Knowledge Intermediaries
By Harry Jones
This article from 2009 describes a multi-layered analysis of the science-policy interface in developing countries "combining theoretical and empirical strands, comparing Northern and Southern contexts and drawing out theoretical insights as well as providing practical recommendations for action."  Untaken by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) Research and Policy in Development (RAPID) programme, International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), and a number of partners, the analysis focused on the following three questions: "What is the patterning of relationships between scientific researchers, policy decision-makers and intermediaries in developing country contexts? What are the challenges and opportunities for strengthening these linkages? What types of strategies exist or could potentially be adopted to improve evidence-informed policy processes?"

10. Research Makes the News: Strengthening Media Engagement with Research to Influence Policy
By Joanne Carpenter and Ingrid Yngstrom
This document, published by Panos London in 2010, begins from the premise that: "If knowledge created by researchers is shared and debated publicly, it is more likely to be adopted by policymakers and practitioners." It assumes the stance that "media have the capacity to speak to policymakers, civil society, and the general public, and therefore have an important role to play in keeping debate and awareness of particular issues in the public domain. Research that supports existing debates can also bring evidence and corroborated facts to a debate where they might otherwise be absent."

11. Communications Handbook for Clinical Trials: Strategies, Tips, and Tools to Manage Controversy, Convey Your Message, and Disseminate Results
By Elizabeth T. Robinson, Deborah Baron, Lori L. Heise, Jill Moffett, and Sarah V. Harlan
This handbook, published by FHI 360 in 2010, is written to provide practical guidance to clinical trial staff and research partners on how to anticipate and respond to the communications challenges posed by the conduct of clinical research. Using context-specific case studies and insights culled from actual communications experience in clinical trials from around the world, this resource covers communication planning, activities, and strategies involved in the implementation of a clinical trial. Organised to correspond to the chronological steps involved in conducting research, this guide focuses on the various communications skills that are needed throughout the course of a trial.

12. Engaging Media in Communicating Research on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa: Experiences and Lessons Learned
By Rose N. Oronje, Chi-Chi Undie, Eliya M. Zulu, and  Joanna Crichton
Published in 2011 in the Health Research Policy and Systems (HARPS) journal, produced by the Sexual Health and HIV Evidence into Policy (SHHEP) initiative, this paper describes the experiences of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) and its partners in cultivating the interest and building the capacity of the media in evidence-based reporting of reproductive health issues in sub-Saharan Africa.

13. Communication: A Responsibility of All Scientists
In this SciDev.Net editorial from 2010, director David Dickinson discusses the ethical question of scientist responsibility to publicly discuss the social implications of his or her research. The author suggests "agreement has grown that all scientists have a responsibility to ensure that the results of their research are effectively communicated to society at large. This commitment is reflected in a potentially influential draft set of guidelines drawn up by the Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science, of the International Council for Science (ICSU).



14. Promoting Science in Schools: Research Institutes Play their Part
This article from 2010 discusses the potential role of research institutes to enrich school science, demystify health research in the communities in which they work, and encourage future generations of scientists and health workers. It focuses on the work of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)-Wellcome Trust programme (KEMRI-WTP) in Kilifi, Kenya.

15. Handbook: Organise a Project for Public Understanding of Science
By Joanna Deridder, Raphaële Nisin, and Marie-Lise Sabrié
This handbook, produced by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) in 2006, offers information about how to carry out projects to encourage public understanding of science and technology. It is designed to cater for those who have little or no experience of science outreach activity management and who wish to set up a project, and will be useful for people involved in associations, non-governmental organisations, cultural activities and organisations in the arts, health, environment, schooling, and sciences. The handbook was designed especially to assist project initiators and their partners in Africa taking part in the programme Promotion de la Culture Scientifique Et Technique, run by the IRD on behalf of the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

16. Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS - South Africa
This is a film project that combines the story of a rising soccer star with an animated journey inside his body, to illustrate the progression of HIV disease and the body's reactions to it. A collaboration between Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership (DCGEP), Curious Pictures, and Masters & Savant, the project combines research, entertainment, and education to produce a narrative that uses the appeal of a sports drama to explain the science of HIV/AIDS.

17. Handbook for Science Educators
By Marie-Eve Migueres and Marie-Lise Sabrié
This guide, published by the Institute of Research for Development (IRD) in 2007, gives advice on how to organise and manage a public science outreach event, including tips for successful science communication. Although primarily written for African science educators, this guide is for any person who wishes to organise events for public understanding of science and technology: researchers, engineers, technicians, teachers, students, journalists, and cultural activity mediators, who have little or no experience in such projects. Tips on how to organise such an event are provided, with the authors highlighting the need to use simple language, offer concrete examples, stimulate questions from the audience, and provide 'hands-on' activities.



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