Hassan’s recommendations for science communication in Africa

“Africa’s sustainability problems can only be solved by science-based solutions, and effective communication must play a key role in this,” said Professor Mohamed Hassan of The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) in his opening lecture at the 2009 African Science Communication Conference. He added, however, that science communication can only be effective if there is enough science to communicate – a real issue in Africa. He provided some worrying statistics on just how far Africa lags behind in terms of producing new knowledge (as measure by ISI-listed scientific papers). The whole of Africa produces only 1.7% of the world’s new scientific knowledge, and most of this comes from only a few countries on the continent. South Korea, for example, contributes 1.6 times that of the whole African continent.

Professor Mohamed Hassan, Secretary General of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World

Professor Mohamed Hassan, Secretary General of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World

His five key recommendations for strengthening science communication in Africa are:

  1. Create at least one science centre in each African country to bring science closer to society. He pointed out that of the 2400 science centres worldwide only 23 are in Africa, and 17 of these are in South Africa. By contrast every UK citizen lives within 2 hours’ drive of a science centre.
  2. Establish an African centre for science policy and science communication to train a new generation of experts in science policy formulation and science communication; as well as to build the communication capacity of scientists.
  3. Create a science communication unit in each African science academy to support more effective communication strategies, engage the mass media and ensure that government policies on science related issues are based on the best available scientific evidence.
  4. Consider the formation of an African space agency to coordinate space research efforts on the continent, with leadership from Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa.
  5. Engage the general public in science in more innovative ways. Learn from the Brazilians who are including science when they enjoy music, art and even during carnival time!

Hassan also spoke about the challenges facing many science academies – mostly in terms of the age and gender of their members. While the academies themselves are widely recognised for their scientific excellence and independence, most members are older than 65 and only 5% are women. They communicate mostly with their members and far too little with decision makers and the general public. He also feels that some African science academies are too removed from the hard realities in many African societies (such as poverty, hunger, disease and malnutrition). He urged them to “wake up” to the needs of the broader societies that they should be serving.

Marina Joubert, SciDev.Net

2 Responses to Hassan’s recommendations for science communication in Africa

  1. “By contrast every UK citizen lives within 2 hours’ drive of a science centre.”

    True, but of course it helps that we live on a tiny island in comparison to the African continent.

  2. Calsile Masilela says:

    I am a journalist working for a print media in Swaziland and I am very much interested in issues of population and devlopment including health,climate changeand others. Hown can I develop my writing skills for I feel I need a bit of training. For now I have a diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Swaziland.

Comments closed. Read our blogs at www.Scidev.net

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: