1. Context and Rationale
The greatest impediment to the development of science, technology and innovation sector in Africa and its contribution to Africa’s development at large is the communication gap that exist among the major actors and players both within and outside the sector. This gap is further exasperated by high level of illiteracy and lack of appropriate communication tools and means. This has led to scientific advances laying in laboratory shelves due to the ignorance of the end-users and resulting in poor uptake and use of scientific outcomes. Hence, it is observed a limited level of funding for science and technology sectors primarily due to lack of or poor understanding of the role of science and technology in African development by policy makers.
Sustainable development in Africa has to be science led and this has to be driven by an unprecedented transfer and acquisition of technology and knowledge. This multi-sectoral flow of knowledge in science between the different actors and players which are end users, policy makers, scientists and innovators must be catalyzed by a robust communication system put in place and animated by the professional journalists in science and technology.
Media in general can play a central and critical role for Africa’s socio-economic development. For instance, in the area of health, the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria etc science journalists report in ways that contribute to the prevention and control of these diseases and positively influence the attitudes and behaviours of communities, societies, populace and decision makers. Similarly, media activities on other health related virus such as H5N1 as they relate to development and health issues have been reported in different countries of Africa including Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt etc.
Harnessing the power of media to further contribute to African development poses the question on the level of professional development of African journalists in communicating science and technology. While this is captured to an appreciable level by the African Associations of Science and Technology journalists, development partners, African government, in our view however, not enough is invested on the professional development of journalists in Africa, particularly on continuing education of journalist in science and technology.
To address these issues, a series of five training workshops will be undertaken in the different regions of Africa. Each of these workshops will address identified thematic issue and also contribute in the identification of areas of training need to address other aspect of this project.
It is in this context that the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in collaboration of the African Union commission (AUC) are organizing the second of the series of workshop in Addis Ababa for the training of selected journalists in Eastern of Africa.
The theme of the workshop will be: ‘Making Science and Technology Information More Accessible for Africa’s Development’. The workshop will invite selected science journalists, resource persons with materials and topical stories, and ideas on selected development issues such as Innovation for social and economic development, climate change and biodiversity, and how it can be related to policy decisions at community, national or regional levels.
2. Objectives of the workshop
The objective of the workshop is to enable journalists in Eastern of Africa to improve the quality of their reports to the public and its impact on the livelihood of African citizens.
Specifically, the workshop will:
- Create awareness on the role of science, technology and innovation (STI) for social and economic development;
- Inform journalists of regional programs and initiatives on STI led by ECA, UNESCO and AUC ;
- Provide insight into the fundamental roles and responsibilities of science journalism for African development;
- Determine priority thematic areas and ways to further continuous training and development of science journalists;
- Consolidating and strengthening of scientific reporting and writing of participants with the view to improving the quality of scientific news reaching the public;
- Exchange on new and emerging science communication methods and approaches; and
- Launch the East Africa Science Journalists Networks.
The workshop shall include invited papers with a series of hand-on practical learning exercises and group discussions with the view to sharing and strengthening both emerging and established science communication and approaches. Participants will also be introduced to the basics of science news writing and reporting, which includes but is not limited to: elements of science news, science ethics, science news editing, etc.
4. Workshop Participants
Participants will include, scientists, science communication experts, journalists from UNESCO Centers of Excellence and ECA Media Networks in Eastern of Africa sub-region, members of the West African Science Journalists Network, from the African Federation of Science Journalists and from the International .
5. Expected Outcomes
The expected output will be a trained core of African science journalists and thus increase their technical competence and their contribution to African development. In addition, there will be workshop report with adopted recommendations.
In the medium to long term, the following are expected:
- More teaching material and resources will be available for dissemination and further training of journalists;
- The journalists in science and technology will extend their coverage of science and technology and innovation issues beyond the shores of the continent;
- Improved capacity to make accessible scientific information beyond the scientific community;
- Improved interaction between science journalists, researchers and policy makers in order to ensure that science journalism is driven by input from all stakeholders;
- Capacity of science journalists strengthened;
- Launched of East Africa Science Journalists Networks; and
- Agreed thematic and framework for continuous capacity strengthening of science journalists.
6. Proposed date and venue
It is proposed that the workshop will take place from 19-20 September 2012 at the United Nations Conference Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The implementation of the science journalism workshop is in line with the mandate of the various partners as follow:
- UNECA implementing recommendations of the two science with Africa Conference and the second Committee on development Information Science and Technology (CODIST-II);
- The UNESCO for strengthening of Media Center of Excellence and Reference capacity and implementing UNESCO Media program;
- The African Union Commission as the implementation of the MOU signed with UNESCO.