Tag Archives: science communication

science communication

Blogging to change a malpractice

In our training courses, participants often want to know how to start a blogsite. According to me, the best way to start is getting inspired by a great idea, or rather, by a strong drive to change a certain abuse.

One of the best examples of a research blogsite I have seen is the site/movie/blog/tweetaccount Theygotodie from epidemiologist  Jonathan Smith, lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health (US). Smith investigates the epidemiology of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) among mine workers in South Africa. These diseases are preventable, but many miners still die from them.

Adding your own value to findings as a science journalist

What is the mission of a science journalist? Entertainment? Education? Guarding democracy? That depends on your client, according to science journalist Martin Angler, author of Science journalism, an introduction (2017). If you work for a glossy magazine or free online news medium,  you will probably see yourself mainly as an entertainer or educator. Employed by a critical national newspaper, you will probably see yourself mainly as a watchdog.

Book ‘Regenesis’: Science marketing or Science journalism?

The 30-year old Dutch Association for Science Journalists (VWN) is going to change its name in ‘Dutch Association for Science Journalism and Science Communication’. A good decision. Most members, including me, earn their money mainly with communication. But actually the term communication is rather vague. ‘Communication’ conceals it is often marketing: well-written stories increase the chances to catch up new research funds. Nothing wrong with that, but shouldn’t we call ourselves science marketers instead of science communicators?  We are always advocating for plain language. 

Research site that stimulates debates about controversial themes

7-12-2013. Are you struggling to create and maintain a website for a research program? View the Water, Land and Ecosystems CGIAR research program for a while. In my eyes, an inspiring site that excellently serves readers, the blogsite is particularly interesting.

In my role as a science writer, I follow research news in controversial fields including ‘land grabbing’ in developing countries. The greater the contribution from research to a topical issue, the better. Yesterday, while surfing on that CGIAR-site, I found an interesting blog about the amount of agricultural land (in hectares) that has been ‘grabbed’ in developing countries. A couple of years ago, Oxfam claimed that an area almost the size of Western Europe had been taken over by foreign investors. But then a recently published report claimed that most of these big ‘land grabs’ never got beyond the planning stage. So what is the truth? Accordingly, journalist Fred Pearce (author of ‘Land grabbers’) started researching different sources and figures (including figures from CGIAR). The result is a convincing blog/story that NGO”s such as Oxfam are probably right, but that they used the wrong figures to support their claim. Well, such analysis – with links to different figures and sources – really help a discussion further.

The homepage contains ‘news articles’, ‘Upcoming events’, ‘About’and ’Twitter’ (5000 followers). But three years after the start of this CGIAR research program, the blogsite is the most interesting and relevant part. It meets the program’s goal of providing a ‘platform for discussion and networking on ecosystems services and resource management’.

‘Critical opinions can be expressed here’, to quote the site, ‘but discussions must be forward-looking and solution-oriented.’ In this way, (blog)sites are fulfilling the traditional role of a professional journal, but with a broader based, more diverse audience. Journals calling themselves independent have a comparable goal of being a platform. And when research programs start inviting or recruiting good journalists such as Fred Pearce to actively participate,  the difference between the professional journals and quality blogsites are negligible.

Young African bloggers present the results of a Science Week

Asking young people to blog is a good way of publicising symposium results, as the Africa AgricultureScience Week (AASW), held from 15-20 July in Accra (Ghana), has proved. More than 150 young Africans, organised into a ‘AASW Social Reporting Team’ are right now writing blogs and tweets about agriculture in Africa. The Social Reporters do not need to attend the workshops, they can also track them on line.  
Idowu Ejere, a young Nigerian diplomat, came up with the idea a few months ago. A born communicator she already had accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogger but she used them mostly for personal purposes. Until she attended a Social Media Training in Uruguay. In one of the blogs she explains that this course was a turning point in her life as she came to understand the power of social media’
Ejere knew from previous meetings that one of the challenges was to ‘get the message out to people outside the usual audiences, including policy makers, young people and the general public’. Her organisation (the FARA) teamed up with other stakeholders and together they started a capacity building program for Social Reporters.
Today, the second day of the Week, three o’clock in the afternoon, there are already more than 25 blogs on the new blog site; 1720 followers including me (in Wageningen) get every new blog in their mailbox. The blogs provide (research) news and opinions. Several blogs seem to be from a program leader or communication officer at a NGO or research institutes. But other young people (traders, students, maybe even farmers) will definitely follow. The last blog, ‘Learn to farm from your computer’, is from an experienced Ghanian blogger, Dominic Kornu, who had nothing to do with agriculture before this Week. You can find out more about the training he got in his blog from 14 July, entitled Quaphui’s Cafe.
One thing is a pity. The Science Week homepage shows mainly pictures and descriptions of the official speakers – ministers, famous professors and company leaders. Although the F (for facebook), the T (for Twitter), and the In (for LinkedIn), mean a visitor is only one click from the blogsite or the tweets, I am not sure if this is clear enough for older people. I for one  (> 30) had missed it.

According to the blog of the CGIAR (one of the stakeholders): ’87 blog posts and over 2800 tweets were published at the end of day 2, reaching almost 800,000 people’.