Big questions on the agenda, but why so few African science communicators?

Is science communication a “pillar for the democratisation of science in Africa”? Will it strengthen the continent’s skills base and help more women to succeed in science careers? Does it play a meaningful role in breaking down barriers between research disciplines and does it facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship? In short, does science communication really make a significant difference in Africa — and how do we know?

These are just some of the questions to be explored during the Second African Science Communication Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference kicks off with an early-evening networking event on Wednesday 18 November, followed by lectures, round table discussions and workshops over the next two days.

It is somewhat disappointing that only about 100 people have registered. About half of the delegates are from South Africa, with the rest from elsewhere of the continent and a handful from other parts of the world.

Where are Africa’s science communicators? What more can we do to raise the profile and impact of science communication in Africa? How can we demonstrate the value of science communication for the continent? These are some of the questions I will be putting to delegates.

The main conference programme will kick off with a special lecture by Professor Mohamed Hassan of the The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS). According to the programme, Hassan will highlight the importance of communicating science in order to move away from the “traditional bench to library process” in favour of influencing policy, facilitating economic growth and innovative thought, and contributing positively to everyday life.

A follow-up plenary session devoted to “communicating science for scientific development” will be led by Professor Robin Crewe, President of the Academy of Science, South Africa, and Professor Sospeter Muhongo, Regional Director of the International Council for Science.

The conference organisers are asking each of the more than 40 speakers to summarize their talk in “three most effective points”. They will use this to develop a conference position statement that will be submitted to the African Union.

Marina Joubert, SciDev.Net

One Response to Big questions on the agenda, but why so few African science communicators?

  1. Andrea Bandelli says:

    You raise a very good point Marina.
    I was pleased to see tonight several returning faces from the conference 2 years ago – which means that the ones who do come out, stay out. Once the conference is over, we should look also not only at how many people came, but who came – I guess that in this case, key people count more than big numbers…

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