Political and security issues are covered more extensively in important pages of newspapers while very little space is given to science, health and even education news reports. Leaders and politicians need to be informed about the significance of science and technology via print and electronic media. For effective communication Journalists and scientists need to learn communication skills.
These views were expressed by senior journalists and scientists, while speaking at the one-day seminar on “Science and Society – Science Communication and Public Engagement” held on 19 October, 2016 in Video Conference facility of the LEJ, National Science Information Centre, International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS). The event was jointly organized by Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center (PABIC) and ICCBS. The event was attended by more than 250 journalist, newspaper representatives and persons from mass communication department of different universities.
The seminar was addressed by Prof. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman FRS, (the patron-in-chief of ICCBS, former chairman higher education commission and the federal minister for science and technology), Director PABIC and ICCBS Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary, Professor Dr. Shakil Farooqi, (department of genetics, University of Karachi), Mr. Nizam-ud-Din Siddiqui (senior journalist and sub-editor, Daily Dawn, Karachi), and Dr. Sardar Nazish (chairman, department of media studies, Jinnah University for Women, Karachi).
Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman, FRS delivering his talk “Wondrous World of Science”, said that this is the age of knowledge which has become the main driving force of world economies and innovation has become a key to rapid socio-economic development. He reminded the participant that L.E.J. National Science Information Centre was setup to communicate science information, and PABIC is playing a pivotal role in dissemination of knowledge to the public regarding biotech. applications in modern science. He mentioned several recent examples of biotech. discoveries related to health and agriculture that can serve towards better economy and humanity if utilize effectively in Pakistan.
Dr. Shakil Farooqi discussed the role of a journalist and a scientist and the gaps between their communications. He pointed out that media is responsible for misrepresenting science discoveries in front of common people. He said that journalism professional ethics are not confirmed that is why media sometimes sensationalize science, in front of common man.
Dr. Sardar Nazish said that there are many formal ways to popularize science in the society. These ways include exhibitions, visits at laboratories, seminars, conferences, press releases, scientific meetings and science museums. Talking about science
Communication, he said that science communication emerged as separate entity in 1950s. Science communication institutes were established in universities and separate institutes with interdisciplinary approach, he added. Nizam-ud-Din Siddiqui said that journalists generally don’t know how to go about covering science stories. Scientists will have to come forward to effectively deal with any misinformation or falsehoods, he maintained.
“Most newspapers do science coverage without a designated science reporter. Science reports are covered incidentally, generally by the health or education reporters. Only a few natural and scientific events, like eclipses and earthquakes, are covered off and on, albeit in a rather clichéd manner. In the absence of proper guidance and training, reporters are prone to making mistakes while covering science,” he said.
Scientists are not fully aware of writing skills, he observed, adding that only a few scientists write for science magazines.
Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary observed that journalists and scientists in Pakistan seem fail in term of getting the public engaged in science. He said Journalists and scientists need to learn communication skills. He stressed the need for introducing communication skills development courses among the media professionals and scientists as well.