“In our countries, it is easier to know what is going on in science in the rest of the world, for example the United States, than in institutions just across the street”, said Egyptian freelance science journalist Nadia El-Awady.
Part of the reason for this lack of regional science awareness is the limitations of press officers in the developing world. Few research institutions and universities have press officers and even when they do, the officers are not adequately prepared for their tasks. Furthermore, many of the press officers are unaware of the importance of their work.
In Nigeria the situation is even more worrying, according to Diran Onifade, a journalist the Nigerian Television Authority, who denounced the regular practice of press officers paying journalists to cover science stories.
“I need to be careful here and I don’t want to offend nobody, but in my country the press officers have became something else; the relationship between press officer and journalist may involve a negotiation”, Onifade said.
The need for carrying out specific training for press officers was considered key both by the panelists and the participants of the session, which was organised by science communication network Stempra.
Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net.