La divulgación científica en América Latina: un trabajo de hormigas

May 27, 2009

El carácter itinerante de las reuniones de RedPOP por distintos países tiene una ventaja muy interesante: permite conocer experiencias de divulgación científica locales – y también pensar sobre los colores y las especificidades que cada país y cultura confieren a la actividades que involucran la sociedad en temas de ciencia y tecnología.

La XI reunión de RedPOP, por lo tanto, nos permitirá conocer más la divulgación científica realizada en Uruguay. El Espacio Ciencia, un museo de ciencia creado en los años 1990 vinculado al Laboratorio Técnico de Uruguay (Latu), es el punto de partida, visto que está en el mismo parque donde el evento es realizado – y incluso abriga algunas de las sesiones de la reunión.

El Espacio Ciencia es un centro de ciencia interactivo “hijo” del Exploratorium de San Francisco (EE.UU.), que inspiró muchos otros en el mundo. Es decir, incluye diversos experimentos similares a los desarrollados por el espacio creado en el año de 1969, por el físico Frank Oppenheimer.


Llama especial atención un hormiguero en lo cual los visitantes pueden entrar y conocer la vida y los hábitos de las hormigas Acromyrmex ambigus, que se encuentran comúnmente en la costa uruguaya. Para los niños hay un camino especial que lo pone todavía más cerca de las hormigas.

¿Quizás una metáfora a la divulgación científica latinoamericana?

Pero atención: está prohibida la entrada a osos hormigueros. Por supuesto.

Luisa Massarani, Coordinadora regional para América Latina y el Caribe, SciDev.Net

Caribbean to launch strategic plan against HIV/AIDS

August 7, 2008

The Pan-Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) will launch in October a US$7.73 million four year strategic plan to fight HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, the second-most affected region in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.

The announcement was made during the AIDS 2008 conference by representatives of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat. PANCAP is a Caricom special project.

According to Avert, an international HIV/AIDS charity based in the United Kingdom, there were an estimated 230,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean by the end of 2007. About 20,000 people were newly infected during 2007, and there were 14,000 deaths due to the disease.

The prevalence of HIV is 1.2 per cent, but in two countries – the Bahamas and Haiti – more than two per cent of the adult population is living with the virus.

The strategic plan against HIV/AIDS, to be carried out from 2008 to 2012, has six priority areas, including monitoring evaluation and research; prevention of transmission; capacity development for HIV/AIDS services; and treatment, care and support.

“We have been undertaking actions against HIV/AIDS, but we are not seeing impacts yet; we believe that giving emphasis to research [in the strategic plan] will guide us to reach better results and to promote a change in the region”, Edward Greene, assistant secretary general of the Caribbean Community Secretariat, told SciDev.Net.

“A problem Caribbean countries face is that they are classified as middle-income countries, thus they are not apt to receive external aid. In other words, they are too rich to receive help but too poor for afford themselves”, Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS – the UN Programme on AIDS – told journalists.

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net/Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America ‘delivering on HIV treatment’

August 4, 2008

Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest proportion of people actually receiving of HIV/AIDS treatment actually receiving the treatment in comparison to any developing country, according to Luis-Soto Ramirez, co-chair of AIDS 2008 – the XVII International AIDS Conference.

“Sixty-two per cent of the people in need are on treatment in the region – the highest proportion of any developing country”, he said in his opening speech at the conference (3 August).

However, Pedro Cahn, co-president of the AIDS 2008, urged that Latin America and the Caribbean – in which two million people are HIV positive – should be not excluded from the international agenda because of its success in fighting the disease.

“Latin American and the Caribbean are also suffering of the consequences of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the context of poverty and marginality”.

According to Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the UN, in a speech, Latin America is “the source of some of the most dynamic responses to AIDS, but also home to the greatest challenges”.

This is the first time that the International AIDS Conference has been hosted in Latin America.

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net/Latin America and the Caribbean

Science journalism urged to be more locally relevant

June 26, 2008

Presenters at a session of the 10th meeting of the PCST (Public communication of science and technology) urged science journalism in the developing countries to be more locally relevant and use local cultures to fuel the communicative effects of the science news.

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net’s Latin America coordinator, reveals in her study tracing science and technology (S&T) reporting in 12 major Latin American newspapers in 2006 that 7 of the 12 have more than 40 per cent of science news about situations in the developed world.

Massarani had done a similar research two years before on local media’s science news sources and found quite similar situation. “Most newspapers remain the same trend [in getting more science news sources from the developed world].”

Marina Joubert from Southern Science, South Africa, revealed similar situation in the science reporting in her country. She cited a study on March 2008 to show that among the science news stories by Cape Time, a leading South African newspaper, 51 per cent are news about other countries, primarily the developed world researches.

“The larger amount of international science news makes readers think science is irrelevant to their life, especially among those strapped in extreme poverty,” Joubert says.

Besides, Massarani also found that among Latin American science news, there is a low critical attitude toward the information sources, mainly those from the so-called First World. Also, there are high percentages of stories replicated from news agencies, without a concern of putting in the context and double check the information.

Joubert admits that in the current situation, it is difficult for the developing world to establish enough science news sources to feed local media, but there are ways to make science journalism in these countries to be more locally relevant.

“The comments of local scientists and members of the audiences on the applications of the newest scientific discoveries originated from the developed world will help shorten the distance between science and local readers,” she told SciDev.Net.

Joubert added that local cultural resources should also be used to make science news read by more local residents. For example, traditional healing is popular in many developing countries. “Some of them might wrong, but telling the readers how science prove this conclusion, or how scientists are researching traditional healing, could be an effective way to spread scientific knowledge among people familiar with this form of indigenous knowledge,” she says.

Separately, Larry Sanger, founder of Wikipedia and Editor-in-Chief of the Citizendium, told the plenary meeting of PCST conference on Tuesday that although the required multidisciplinary collaborative work for science communication, especially to engage scientists, is very difficult, the Wiki model – allowing scientists to define and introduce researches in their own motif online – could be helpful because this could utilized the very wiliness of scientists to show off their researches.

Jia Hepeng, China coordinator, SciDev.Net

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