The Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovations Hon. Dr. EliodaTumwesigye, has acknowledged the tremendous role played by media in bridging the communication gap that has long existed between researchers/ scientists and communities.
Speaking to journalists, communication specialists, scholars, and scientific researchers at Makerere University Annual Media Convention on 25th April 2019, the Minister said that through media and other communication channels, useful research findings and Scientific information has reached communities in a simple and understandable manner.
“The media is key to creating this link between science and society as science not communicated is science lost. Publishing findings in journals is good but the information therein never reaches the public. By reporting about scientific developments, the media contribute to public understanding of and engagement with science and technology,” he said.
According to Hon. Tumwesigye, there is need to develop strong partnerships between scientists who generate the knowledge and the media who take it to society. Similarly, scientists also need to get out of their laboratories and communicate science and scientific information in a format easy for the public to understand if they are to remain relevant to society.
He commended social media as a handy tool through which information on scientific discoveries, innovations and other breakthroughs can be communicated. He also mentioned that through social media, scientific misconceptions have been corrected and consensus on controversial science subjects have been generated.
The Minister noted that currently, Science, Technology and Innovation and more specifically Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a central driver of all aspects of human endeavor. The World’s most revolutionary innovations are driven by ICTs which constitute the 3rd Industrial revolution and are at the Centre of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).
“Recently, while launching the National Task Force for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), H.E. President Yoweri Museveni stated that: “The primer of all social change in society is the advancement in science and technology but in order to use it well you must integrate it holistically. You should not just come in at the periphery and you think that you are going to benefit.”
The Minister was excited to learn that Makerere University had become the champion in pioneering Science Communication as part of journalism and media training. He was also grateful to know that the University had strategically recognized social media as an additional tool for advancing science communication and public engagement.
The Makerere University Annual Media Convention (AMC) 2019 was organized by the Department of Journalism and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences in partnership with SciDev. Net. The event brought together journalists and media practitioners, public communication experts, policy makers and government officials, academicians, civil society and development partners, as well as journalism students across the region to discuss and propose solutions on how to improve and advance journalism and communication with a critical focus on the role traditional and social media platforms play in disseminating scientific information in society. The event was organized under the theme: Communicating Science in the Social Media Age: Sharing Technical Information from Researchers to the Media”.
According to the Head, Department of Journalism and Communication Dr. William Teyebwa, the AMC 2019 provided a platform to the leading minds in the area of communication and journalism together with scientists and researchers to deeply analyze the concept Science communication, draw frameworks on the relationship between media and research and develop strategies on how journalists can work harmoniously with scientists to help communities.
“This year, we are paying much attention to how technical information from research institutions is reported to the general public, the challenges faced and how such information is discussed in society, in an attempt to improve science communication in Uganda,” said Dr. Tayebwa.
Representing the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Umar Kakumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs said the world is driven by science and technology. “The dichotomy of the world along two economic poles, of developed and developing is mostly linked to the level of science and technology sophistication. This implies that science and technology play pivotal roles in the developing nations,” he said.
He however noted that Universities within the African Continent are producing large volumes of scientific research that has failed to serve its intended purpose of improving productivity and contributing to development due ineffective dissemination procedures.
“It is therefore important that we focus on having scientific research well disseminated using various forms of communication. The media is one of the most effective avenues for disseminating information as well as popularizing and moderating debate on issues that directly or indirectly impact the wellbeing of humanity. In this era, social media is one of the fastest and most cost-effective modes of communication that we should explore in promoting scientific research,” he remarked.
He thanked the Department of Journalism and Communication for the well thought-out theme, and called upon institutions of higher learning to pave way for the improvement of science communication and consequently contribute to scientific and technological advancement on the African Continent.
He appreciated the media for the support they have accorded Makerere University over the years. Dr. Kakumba said the media has been very instrumental in promoting Makerere University’s activities and this has greatly contributed to the visibility of University at the national and international levels.
He commended the Government of Uganda for supporting and promoting scientific research. “I thank the President for his support through the Presidential Initiative on Science and Technology that has resulted into a number of innovations that are transforming our country. I wish to let you know that the Government of Uganda in the next financial year (2018/2019), has committed UGX30 billion for research at Makerere University. With this money, Makerere University will continue to advance its research agenda as it contributes to transformation of lives.”
Addressing participants at the closing ceremony, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Prof. William Bazeyo described Science and Journalism as two important disciplines that make a lot of sense. “You cannot be a successful researcher if you cannot get someone to interpret your work and give it to community. Journalists have helped the people we serve to understand what we think. You are the only link between government, policy makers, and community,” he said.
The day’s theme was expounded by two keynote addresses from Prof. Emmanuel S. Dandaura- the Executive Director, Institute of Strategic and Development Communication, Nasarawa State University in Keffi Nigeria and Dr. Abraham KipropMulwo, Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication Studies at Moi University, Kenya.
Dr. Abraham KipropMulwo explained that the impact of scientific work is dependent on how effectively it is communicated. In his presentation titled, “Status and Future of Science Communication -Global and Regional Perspective”, Dr. KipropMulwo noted that public engagement with science depends on how the scientists and the public cooperate and allow people from the diverse background and varying scientific knowledge to voice their opinions in regard to scientific conversations.
“Much of Scientific research is funded through private and public resources, with the expectation that scientific work will contribute to resolving societal challenges. It is therefore important that the outcome of scientific research is effectively communicated,” he said.
Quoting Prof. Lewenstein, Dr. KipropMulwo said communicating science requires scientists to close the gap separating knowledge and belief in interacting with the public. He also mentioned that with the emergency of new media technologies, Data Centres and Research Digital Libraries (RDLs) are emerging as the pillars that support contemporary scientific communication.
“There are technologies and administrative personnel that help researchers to store, discover and share both data and publications. Furthermore, modern technological inventions such as telescopes, satellites and sensor networks help sci-tests to generate large amounts of data,” he stated.
He also noted that social media is rapidly transforming ways in which science is communicated. Previously, communicating science was a challenge to both the scientists and Science communicators. Science communication, when executed, was one way. With the inherently interactive nature of social media, communication has been made a two-way engagement process whereby scientists can receive criticism and questions from users of social media.
Dr. KipropMulwo however noted that in spite the emerging issues in development, the mainstream media and journalists in particular, remain underutilized as means of bridging the communication gap between scientists and societies within which they operate.
“The major challenge is science communication through mainstream media lacks a clear understanding of the science of science communication. It is relatively easy for scientists to communicate to their colleagues since they are aware of the information they need. The problem is when scientific information needs to be communicated to ordinary citizens. Scientists lack clear understanding of what the public wants and how to make complex scientific information simple. Moreover, the communication is mediated by journalists who still have their own interests on what to communicate,” said Dr. KipropMulwo.
In his keynote address on the “Nexus between Science, Media and Communication for Development”, Prof. Emmanuel S. Dandaura called upon media practitioners to put science into use by helping the public understand research results and make informed choices and decisions.
“Communication is what makes development happen, if people are not properly informed about scientific innovations and research, the findings will have little or no impact on society,” said Prof. Dandaura.
He noted that most of the Science Communication activities in Africa are driven by foreign based public relations firms. Prof. Dandaura also revealed to participants that most of the African Tertiary Institutions run omnibus journalism or mass communication programmes that hardly prepare the would be science journalists. He therefore made recommendations among which included;
- Regular trainings of media professionals, educators, scientists, on different aspects of sciences communication
- Integrate science communication into the undergraduates and post graduate curriculum
- Create opportunities for scientists and journalists to interact
- Understand the African agenda on science communication
- Advance science communication as a discipline within communication
- Encourage policy engaged research in the institution of higher learning
- Leverage on the new media technologies
The two keynote addresses were further enriched by two panel discussions and an interactive session. The sessions were chaired by Mr. Adolf Mbaine, DR. Charles WendoLwanga, Dr. Ivan Lukanda, Mrs Marjorie Nyitegeka, and Mr. John Baptist Imokola.
- Ms. Barbara Zawedde, National Agricultural Research Organization
- Prof. Goretti Nasanga, Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University
- Dr. Samuel G. Oketch, College of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Bio-security, Makerere University
- Ms. GlorriaSebikari, Petroleum Authority of Uganda
- Mr. Hillary Bainemigisha, Columnist, New Vision
- Mr. Gerald Tenywa, Senior Reporter, New Vision
- Mr. Daniel Kalinaki, Convergence Editor, Monitor Publications
- Ms. Esther Nakazzi, Science and Technology Journalist
Among the day’s proceedings was the awarding of certificates to over 30 students of Journalism and Communication who successfully completed a one-year online short course in Science Communication. The certificates were handed over to the students by the Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovations Hon. EliodaTumwesigye together with DR. Charles WendoLwanga, the Director of Script Project, ScieDev.Net.
At the same function, Daily Monitor awarded Ms. Lyn Tukei with the Tebere-Mudin Award for the overall best performing student of Journalism and Communication. Ms Lyn Tukei graduated in January 2019 with CGPA of 4.29.
Ms. Betty Musasizi won the CranimerMugerwa Award for the best performing student in photojournalism. The award is sponsored by New Vision in honour of their treasured fallen photojournalist Cranimer Mugerwa.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Prof. William Bazeyo pledged to support the best Journalism and Communication student with a token of UGX 2milion starting next academic year 2019/2020.
Representing Dr. Josephine Ahikire, the Acting Principal of College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Julius Kikoma applauded the Department of Journalism for consistently organizing the Annual Media Convention for the last 20 years. He thanked the 2019 conveners Mrs. Marjorie Nyitegeka and Dr. Ivan Lukanda for the wonderful and successful event.
Dr. Merit Kabugo who represented the Dean, School of Languages, Literature and Communication commended the leadership of Journalism and Communication on the tremendous developments.
“The Department has also been very instrumental in training many media specialists that we are proud of today. The good job you are doing should be maintained or even taken a notch higher,” he said.
The Annual Media Convention was convened by Dr. Ivan Lukanda and Ms. Marjorie Kyomuhendo Niyitegeka from the Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University.
Article by Nabatte Proscovia, Mak Public Relations Office