By JOWIT SALUSEKI –
SCIENCE communication plays an increasingly important role in promoting a better understanding of issues facing our lives, thereby stimulating wise and timely action.
Despite its relevancy in today’s world there is less enthusiasm among stakeholders to promote science communication.
However, Veronica Zulu Mwaba, the executive director of Dziwa Science and Technology Trust (DSat), is running a non-profit organisation that aims at promoting science communication in the country.
In her small way, she is passionately trying to promote various fields of science in Zambia.
DSaT is an organisation that aims to promote science communication with a strong bias on areas such as agriculture, education, environment, health, innovations, engineering and information and communication.
Ms Mwaba’s contribution to promoting science communication has not gone unnoticed.
In 2018, Ms Mwaba got a regional recognition earning her an opportunity to be nominated to participate in the 2018 Global Leadership Fellows Programme that was held at Cornell University in the United States of America (USA).
She joined Cornell Alliance for Science and the Department of International Programmes in the College of Agriculture in Ithaca, New York State, USA.
Upon completion of the programme, Ms Mwaba became a Fellow and a member of an international cohort of forward-leaning communicators uniquely equipped to promote the evidence-based decision making around global issues such as food security, productive agricultural systems, climate change and environmental sustainability and agricultural growth.
The Alliance for Science is a communications and training initiative builds a global network of science champions dedicated to promoting access to agricultural innovation.
The Alliance is further passionate about achieving justice for the poor, committed to defending evidence-based decision-making and driven by the urgency of resolving social and environmental problems.
The programmes run from August 27 to November16, 2018.
DSaT aims to make contributions through various platforms to engage experts and the community to appreciate the benefits of science and technology in their livelihood through effective science communication.
Early last year, the Medical Journalists’ Association -of Ghana congratulated Dziwa Science and Technology Trust (DSaT) and African Agribusiness Network TV (ABN) on the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The MoU aims to provide a dedicated programme to scientists and other experts to reach out and educate the ordinary people to appreciate the benefits of science in people’s lives.
Ms Mwabas’ 15 years of experience in media and administrative work include serving at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa(COMESA), where she coordinated media coverage for Biotechnology and Seed programmes, and as a communications manager for Land O’Lakes Inc./USAID.
A Journalist by training ,Ms Mwaba holds a master’s degree in media, communication and PR from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom and a bachelor’s in Public Relation from Cavendish University Zambia.
She says her experiences have taught her that public engagement and media coverage in science require message delivery in a manner it is easily understood.
This is because science communication is premised on informing, educating, sharing wonderment, and raising awareness of science-related topics.
“Improved knowledge and awareness in science and technology among key stakeholders contributes to making informed decisions,” Ms Mwaba says.
Science communication may generate support for scientific research or study, or to inform decision making, including political and ethical thinking.
There is increasing emphasis on explaining methods rather than simply findings of science.
This may be especially critical in addressing scientific misinformation, which spreads easily because it is not subject to the constraints of scientific method.
For instance , science communicators can use entertainment and persuasion including humour, storytelling and metaphors.
Writing in 1987, Geoffery Thomas and John Durant advocated various reasons to increase public understanding of science, or scientific literacy.
If the public enjoyed science more, they suggested there would presumably be more funding, progressive regulation, and trained scientists.
More trained engineers and scientists could allow a nation to be more competitive economically. Science can also benefit individuals. Science can simply have aesthetic appeal (e.g., popular science or science fiction).
Living in an increasingly technological society, background scientific knowledge can help to negotiate it. The science of happiness is an example of a field whose research can have direct and obvious implications for individuals.
Moreover, science can inform moral decision making (e.g., answering questions about whether animals can feel pain, how human activity influences climate, or even a science of morality).
Bernard Cohen points out potential pitfalls in improving scientific literacy. He explains first that we must avoid ‘scientific idolatry’.
In other words, science education must allow the public to respect science without worshiping it, or expecting infallibility.
Ultimately scientists are humans, and neither perfectly altruistic, nor perfectly competent. Science communicators must also appreciate the distinction between understanding science and possessing a transferable skill of scientific thinking.
Indeed, even trained scientists do not always manage to transfer the skill to other areas of their life.
Ms Mwaba therefore aims to contribute to science communication that bridges the gap and ultimately benefits communities.