The Director of United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), Dr. Elias T. Ayuk, has admonished researchers not to ignore communication in any research project.
According to Dr. Ayuk, effective science communication requires more collaboration between researchers, communications officers and journalists.
He said “involving communication officers at the inception of research projects is very important as this will give them the opportunity to understand projects better and work with researchers to share information on the project throughout the research cycle”.
The Director was speaking at a 2-day science reporting workshop jointly organised by the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), the United Nations University Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU MERIT), Netherlands and the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Accra.
The workshop, dubbed “Reach & Turn” aimed to help bridge the gap between science communication and science journalism.
The first day of the workshop emphasised the need to communicate research findings not only to scientists but also to policy makers and the general public in a clear, compelling, non-technical and inclusive language. It encouraged researchers to consider policy makers and the general public as part of the target audience for their research activities and put research findings informats that are easily accessible to these audience.
The participants were urged to try and use different communication products such as policy briefs, factsheets, blogs and channels like social media platforms to communicate key research findings to non-experts.
The discussions on the second day of the workshop focused on how communication officers and journalists can take advantage of the new media landscape to widely disseminate research findings to the benefit of the general public. The participants discussed the importance of citizen journalism, which has to do with reporting of issues or news events by members of the public using various media platforms.
The workshop laid emphasis on how this concept of citizen journalism can be used especially by researchers to share information on research activities with journalists and the general public. The participants also discussed the principles of advocacy with focus on environmental advocacy, where they identified the need to have media campaignson environmental issues on continuous basis till there is a change in public attitudes.
For the participants, it was a great experience and the knowledge gained will impact positivelyon their work. “Now, I will start thinking about how to clearly communicate my research findings in simple terms to the benefit of the general public and I hope to share this experience with my colleagues at work, remarked Dr. Timothy Khan Aikins, a researcher from theUniversity for Development Studies, Ghana and a participant. The two-day workshop brought together 50 participants comprising researchers, communication officers and journalists from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Togo.
The aim of bringing these categories of participants together was to give them the opportunity to work with each other and to see science communication and science journalism from each other’s perspective.