Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is there too little science to communicate?

"Africa’s sustainability problems can only be solved by science-based solutions, and effective communication must play a key role in this.” These were the words of Mohamed H.A. Hassan, then executive director of the Academy of Science for the developing world (TWAS) speaking at the 2009 African Science Communication conference. However, Hassan went on to add that, “science communication can only be effective if there is enough science to communicate.” The number of science publications from Africa pales in comparison to other continents. How then should we approach science communication in a relatively science-sparse nation?

Understanding of scientific methodology must form the basis of this communication. This should include an understanding of the uncertainties and potential pitfalls of science, a lack of which has contributed to many of the recent scientific controversies in, for example, the UK. Building on this, the relevance and contributions of science to society will form another key component of science communication in Africa. Understanding of the societal impact of science is relatively low in Africa and could partly explain Africa’s low scientific output. Developing an appreciation of the application of science in solving current problems in Africa, such as improving food security and health, could build in young Africans an interest to pursue scientific research.

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