Last month I had a chance to attend the Science and Technology Communication Course, courtesy of Chocrane Fellowship Programme. The venue was the Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. It was a great week, listening to experts from various fields of communication talking about journalistic practices, developing articles and press releases, risk assessment, social media and ethics - and not to mention interacting with other participants who came from many parts of the world.
I must say the course was an excellent idea to nurture science communicators. As science progresses, more issues of public concern will grow. Biotechnology especially GM technology has already created fears and apprehensions. The recent paper by Seralini linking GM corn to cancer showed us how unscientific information could create fear among the public and regulators.
The role of scientists and reporters in the area of public information and education will increase as science advances and new science emerge. Nurturing and creating science communicators is instrumental and ignoring this will be at our own peril.
One of the speakers pointed out that the problem for the scientist as a public communicator is the language that could almost have been devised to conceal information. Scientist must learn to say the simplest things.
I was amazed when Dr Prakash, the founder of AgBioWorld shared a definition of GM technology by Dr Jonathan Jones :
"Adding a new gene is like adding an app in your iPhone - it just adds a function but it is still an iPhone."
You can relate, can't you?
*Spartan is a term used for MSU alumni.
By Shamira Shamsuddin