Ghana hosts workshop on reporting science in Africa

Effective science communication requires more collaboration between researchers, communication officers and journalists was one of the key messages at a two-day science reporting workshop held recently in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

The workshop was jointly organized by the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resource in Africa (UNU-INRA), the United Nations University Maastricht Economic and social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNUMERIT), Netherlands and the United Nations Information Center (UNIC).

Themed ’’Reach and Turn’’, the event intended to help bridge the gap between science communication and science journalism.

Dr. Elias T. Ayuk, director of UNU-INRA, in his welcome address, admonished researchers not to make communication an afterthought of research projects.

He said ‘’involving communication officers at the inception of research projects is very important as this will give them the opportunity to understand projects better and work with research to share information on the project throughout the research cycle’’.

One the first day, it was emphasized that researchers must communicate their findings not only to scientists but also to policymakers and the general public in a clear, compelling, non-technical and inclusive language.

Researchers were encouraged to consider policymakers and the general public as part of the target audience for their research activities and put research findings in formats that are easily accessible to these audiences.

The participants were urged to try and use different communication products, such as policy briefs, factsheets, blogs and channels, like social media platforms, to communicate key research findings to non-experts.

Presentations at the workshop highlighted how best to write, pitch and present research information to non-scientists.

During the second day of the workshop, the discussions focused on how communication officers and journalists can take advantage of the new media landscape to widely disseminate research findings to benefit the general public.

The participants discussed the importance of citizen journalism, which has to do with reporting of issues or news events by members of the public using various media platforms.

The workshop laid emphasis on how the concept of citizen journalism can be used especially by researchers to share information on research activities with journalists and the general public.

The participants also discussed the principles of advocacy, with a focus on environmental advocacy, where they identified the need to have media campaigns on environmental issues on continuous basis till there is a change in public attitudes.

For the participants, it was a great experience and the knowledge gained will impact positively on their work.

‘’ Now I will start thinking about how to clearly communicate my research findings in simple terms to the benefit of the general public and I hope to share this experience with my colleagues at work, remarked Dr. Timothy Khan Arkins, a researcher from the University for Development Studies, Ghana and a participant.

The two–day workshop brought together 50 participants comprising researchers, communication officers and journalists from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Togo.

The aim of bringing these categories of participants together was to give them the opportunity to work with each other and to see science communication and science journalism from each other perspective.

Draper Tolborh