Follow-on workshop to bring Pacific step closer to Science Communication Network

17 April 2001 Science communication specialists from the Pacific are to meet again in August of this year, six months after a most successful initial workshop.

The first follow-on from the February workshop (see WCS Newsletter, 16 March 2001) will be held in Apia (Samoa) from 1 to 3 August 2001. A joint initiative of the National Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS ) at the
Australian National University and the UNESCO Office in Apia, the meeting will bring together 15 Pacific Nation representatives with the organizers to discuss nation-specific issues that could be improved via science communication initiatives. Representatives will present a paper addressing an issue of importance in their region. Possible science communication solutions will then be explored in workshops in the middle section of the meeting with delegates presenting the results of their discussion on the final day.

It was the Committee on Science and Technology in Developing Countries (COSTED) in Chennai (India) which set the ball rolling late last year, when it approached CPAS director, Dr Sue Stocklmayer. The meeting gave rise to a workshop run for journalists in the Pacific in collaboration with CPAS and with the joint financial support of COSTED and UNESCO Apia. In February, professional Pacific Nation print, radio and television journalists, expert science communicators from CPAS and professional scientists came together in Canberra (Australia) for a four-day intensive programme.

The major goal of the February workshop was to facilitate the creation of a dynamic, self-sustaining Pacific Science Communication Network. It was also hoped that delegates would be inspired to mentor others in their regions to become involved in the communication of science to the community at large. The August workshop will be taking stock of progress towards these goals.

Delegate responses to the February initiative have been overwhelmingly positive. All participants agreed they had developed a better understanding of science communication issues, that the workshop increased their confidence in communicating science and that they were more capable of making positive changes to their science communication practice. One participant commented ‘With the network I have now, I can make a positive change.’ Another wrote, ‘The workshop has got me to start on a positive note: to bridge the gap between science and the public understanding/awareness of science.’ The delegates, CPAS, COSTED and UNESCO all see this programme as merely a starting point for science communication in the Pacific region.

The CPAS became a Centre for the Australian National Commission for UNESCO in early 2000. This partnership was particularly inspired by two of the overarching principles endorsed by the World Conference on Science: ‘Science for knowledge – knowledge for progress’ and ‘Science for development’.

The Centre places great importance on the identification, improvement and creation of mechanisms that enhance links between science and related societal issues. Improving public awareness of science instils a greater sense of public ownership of science and a higher awareness of the practical applications of science. Effective science communication brings together scientists and the community in ways that are mutually beneficial. A key player in this process is the media.

For further information, contact the UNESCO Project Officer, CPAS:

Telephone: (+61 2) 6125 4100