Kenya hopes to host Africa’s first World Conference of Science Journalism

August 22, 2012


Maina Waruru
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net

Kenya’s science journalism body, the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) will bid to host the 2016 World Conference of Science Journalism (WCSJ), in partnership with the African Federation of Science Journalists.

The body will be seeking support from WCSJ affiliate bodies in its bid to host the event in Kenya. If successful, this would be the first time the conference is staged in Africa.

MESHA Kenya chair Violet Otindo told delegates at the official opening of the African Science Journalist Conference (ASJC) on Tuesday night that the experiences gained from hosting the first ever ASJC had given them enough courage to bid for the global event.

“The fact that we have successfully hosted the ASJC event, the first ever on the African continent, has given us enough confidence to bid for the world event,” she said. “We do not feel the event will be any different from what we are hosting today – the only difference is that the world conference will be much bigger,” she added.

Press conference in Kenya. Photo credit: Commonwealth Secretariat, flickr

Kenya’s minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Margaret Kamar, said the Kenyan government will support Kenya’s bid to host the event, saying that such a move would put the country and Africa’s science journalism on the world map.

“I’m assuring you of my personal and government support in seeking to host the event, and indeed we will support you in whichever way we can,” said the minister when she officially opened the ASJC in Kenya’s Rift Valley town of Nakuru.

With over 100 journalists present, enthusiasm for the bid spread quickly. Former BBC Africa editor and Knight Journalism fellow Joseph Warungu said that Africa must not again miss the chance to host the event.

“We feel the 2011 WCSJ was a missed opportunity for Africa and this time we must make sure we succeed,” he said.

The last WCSJ event was staged in Doha, Qatar after it was moved from Cairo, Egypt at the last minute following political upheavals in the north African country. Next year’s conference will be hosted by Finland.

This blog post is part of our Africa Science Journalists Conference 2012 blog, which takes place 20-23 August in Nakuru, Kenya. To read news and analysis on science journalism please visit our website.

Why city resilience will be an issue at Rio+20

December 15, 2011

[Abu Dhabi] Once, the word of the moment was sustainability, and within years sustainable development became a widely-used to concept. Now, the popular term is “resilience”, and the resilience of cities to environmental and social pressures is seen as a major issue for governments and peoples around the world.

This concept underlay many of the events at the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (12-15 December), culminating in a panel discussion, “Innovative Cities: Designing for Resiliency and Change”, in which the role of technology, green building and access to information were highlighted.

Read the full story on SciDev.Net

Q&A: Achim Steiner on expectations for Rio+20

December 15, 2011

SciDev.Net speaks to UN Environment Programme executive director Achim Steiner at the Eye on Earth Summit (12-15 December) about next year’s Rio+20.

Read the full story on SciDev.Net

Is Arab democracy essential for quality Arab science?

November 19, 2011

KAUST: an example of successful top-down science

There was lively debate, at a special session on the governance of science within parliaments at the World Science Forum yesterday (19 November), on whether democracy is essential for science to flourish in Muslim countries.

Scientists and parliamentarians attending the session, co-organised by UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and ISESCO (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), heard that there was a correlation between the levels of human rights indicators and science, technology and innovation indicators in Muslim countries.

Levels of investment in science are much higher in relatively democratic Malaysia and Turkey, compared with those in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, said Adnan Badran, president of Al-Petra University in Jordan.

But this was challenged by the chair of the session, Mustapha El Tayeb, president of Future University in Sudan, who said that Tunisia, where the Arab democracy movement started, already had, before the revolution, one of the highest investments in science in the region.

Badran replied that statistics without analysis can be misleading, and that in countries such as Tunisia, high investment in science can happen with a top down approach – which prioritises what the government needs and wants to do, not people or the scientists.

“The right political environment is needed to unleash the minds towards the unknown – this is research,” Badran said. He added that research and development need freedom of expression, the ability to talk, speak out, and think freely to fulfil its full potential.

Moneef Zou’bi, director-general of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences, from Jordan, said the Arab spring was a “failure of politics” and their “top down approach” to policymaking. But he admitted there were exceptions, where top-down initiatives have been successful, such as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, and Education City in Qatar.

Mićo Tatalović, deputy news editor, SciDev.Net


Namibia science academy takes shape

November 9, 2010

Elmo Thomas, on the left.

Efforts to set up a Namibian academy of natural and social sciences started in earnest this year.

Elmo Thomas, deputy director in the Namibian ministry responsible for science and technology policy development, told me that a steering committee is busy working on the structure of the academy. The steering committee includes academics, higher education officials and other stakeholders.

“Obviously one of our first priorities is to promote networking, within Namibia and the world at large,” said Thomas.

He said the process to establish the academy will go through three phases: the first being the ground work, the second being the establishment of the academy and the third getting it working on projects. He hopes that the first phase will be completed early next year.

For him, the ASADI meeting is a learning experience. “At this meeting we have academies at various stages of development, academies that are two and those that are five years old – it is an opportunity to learn.”

Namibia’s academy may be some time to come – a similar initiative in Ethiopia launched in April this year took almost two years to get off the ground from concept to execution.

The Namibian project is being supported by the Germany Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, the Namibian government and the Network of African Science Academies.

Munyaradzi Makoni, freelance journalist for SciDev.Net

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