Changing Narratives Through Science Communication – Science Nigeria

Isaac Oluyi

“We live in a society that is extremely dependent on science and technology, in which almost no one knows anything about science and technology.” -Carl Sagan

It seems that my destiny is linked to science and technology, despite my attempts to distance myself from it. The more I try to escape, the more it catches up with me. Science explains myths and mysteries, while technology simplifies complex tasks. In a world where we are constantly searching for meaning and explanations for the ever-changing dynamics of our daily lives, science and technology are becoming our saving grace.

However, it is ironic that despite living in a society heavily dependent on science and technology, the majority of people know very little about it. In fact, many believe that Nigeria is making no progress or is completely in the dark when it comes to inventions, discoveries, innovations and groundbreaking contributions in science and technology. This perception may not be entirely accurate. The way we tell the story of science and technology must change if the results of our efforts are to be useful and promote sustainable development.

Currently, it seems not enough is being done in terms of communication and advocacy. Science and technology are communicated, but not in the way they should be. In most cases, researchers rely on mainstream media to disseminate their research findings, primarily for promotional purposes rather than focusing on their potential development impact. The dominant cliché is “publish or perish”.

Accordingly, mediums such as journals, conferences, workshops, monographs and books are used to share research findings. However, the consequence is that the potential impact of these research results on society is diminished. New media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others are rarely used by researchers, let alone more traditional media platforms like newspapers, television and radio. In this environment, few researchers and academics write columns in newspapers or animate radio/television programs to present what is happening in laboratories or within universities and research institutes. As a result, many research results end up on shelves without reaching end users who could translate them into development.

The media itself did not support science and technology. Only a few newspapers have dedicated science and technology bureaus, and the same is true for electronic media. Many journalists consider science and technology to be boring and uninteresting. Some even find it too complicated to communicate, as it is often filled with jargon that seems esoteric to ordinary people. Therefore, the majority of journalists avoid it like the plague.

In order to make science and technology understandable to the general public, the narrative must change. We need to move from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Mathematics). By emphasizing the arts in the equation, communicators and scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians must work together. This collaboration will allow trained communicators to use various communication tools to simplify science and technology jargon, making the story not only told well, but also relevant to stakeholders. Science and technology will continue to be considered inscrutable as long as those who should tell the story are excluded. To change the narrative, certain actions must be taken.

While it is essential for researchers and scholars to publish their work, especially for promotional purposes, it is essential to note that communication of research results should not be limited to conventional media such as workshops. , journal articles and conferences. Science and technology, like life, is dynamic and therefore the way research results are communicated should not be rigid. Several changes must occur if we want key stakeholders, especially entrepreneurs, to use and translate research results into products and services that will promote sustainable development. The following suggestions can help change the narrative:

1. The Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation should urgently establish a science and technology museum. This museum would serve as a central location where prototypes of research results, inventions, discoveries and innovations from various agencies and parastatals under the department could be exhibited. These prototypes would spark the interest of relevant stakeholders such as entrepreneurs, policy makers and science communicators.

2. Researchers should start using new media and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to disseminate their research results.

3. Researchers should contribute columns to newspapers and magazines, presenting the results of their research.

4. Researchers should produce podcasts highlighting important research results and make them available to the public.

5. Government agencies with expertise in science communication should hold webinars and seminars/workshops to educate storytellers on how science and technology works.

6. Communication and media studies departments should prioritize science and technology communication to produce graduates who can effectively tell science and technology stories.

These suggestions are not exhaustive, and there are many other initiatives that can change our view of science and technology. What is crucial is the need to change the way we communicate science and technology. Undoubtedly, as Zoltan Istan said, “Science and technology can solve all the problems of the world, and historically have been shown to make the world better and better”.

This further reinforces the critical nature of science and technology for human existence, as Carl Sagan pointed out in the opening quote of this article. The narrative must change. We need to understand what our society depends so much on for sustainable development. This is a collective responsibility, but relevant stakeholders must champion this cause.

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