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Monday, 31 December 2012 00:00
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Experts, stakeholders challenge media science and technology reporting

• Minister of Science and Technology, Prof Ita EwaTechnology information can effectively impact national development only when it is properly and effectively communicated to all.

That was the position of experts in science, information, and communication technology industry at one-day workshop for science and ICT journalist in Nigeria.

The permanent secretary Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Hajiya Rabi Shuaibu Jimeta who led discussants at the workshop, which was organised by the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) observed that “despite the huge potentials of our National Innovation System (NIS), the Nigerian public have been critical about the contribution of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to national development.”

According to Jimeta, who represented by the director-general of the Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, (Mrs), Gloria Nwakego-Alemoh the cause of the criticism was the inadequate reportage of events and development in the sector adding that the ministry is aware of the challenge hence it is seeking vibrant partnership with the media.

She said that the recently unveiled policy needs the media to create the desired impact, “so that our nation which is blessed with huge human and material resources can join the league of industrialised nations of the world in the shortest possible time.”

She noted: “Though scientists and research institutions are important sources of information and knowledge for the improvement of lives, it is the properly disseminated information and effectively communicated knowledge that can be useful to the individual, the policy maker or the community.”

Director-General of NOTAP, Dr. Umar Bindir disclosed that the agency has the mandate to strategically promote STI with the aim of sensitizing the stakeholders on the processes for technology identification, assessment, acquisition, adaption, transfer and domestication.

Noted that the workshop is an institutional reform for the media saying that the maiden editor was held in 2006 while the previous one was held in Abuja.

In a paper, Communicating Science and Technology to Policy Makers: The Methodologies, Chief Public Relations Officer, NOTAP, Mr. Adokiye Dagogo-George, while highlighting further some challenges is reporting science and technology said t for a scientist to communicate to non-scientist, he must do so in the language the latter would understand for the former to obtain the desired results saying “this is where the media comes in; specifically, science communicators.”

According to him, “the science communicator is a gate keeper standing in between the scientist and the beneficiaries of his R&D results and policy makers who determine his source of sustenance.”

He stressed that “It naturally follows that the science communicator must not only work to understand the immediate and long-term objectives of an S&T project but must also understand the psychology of the policy maker without whose good support in terms of resource allocation, the scientist would not make much progress.”

He explained that the fact that Nigeria’s first communication satellite deobited did not defeat the long term objectives of the space project adding,”Perhaps, even Science communicator were looking only at the immediate returns from Nigcom Sat 1 and that was why there were no concerted efforts from the media to enlighten the public on the long-term benefits of the project to encourage its initiators and justify government expenditure on it. Nigeria’s space programmes, I must state, are products of Technology Foresight and should be commended.”

Dagogo-George stressed that poor reporting of STI caused by lack of  formal training for Scientists  with regards to effective communication, lack of formal training for science journalists and inadequate funding  for STI popularization.

On the methodologies to adopted, he suggested the three major functions of the media which to inform, create awareness, to educate, that is, to impact knowledge and develop the mind, and to entertain adding that science cartoon can be used effectively in communicating S&T issues.

He also said that in gate-keeping, the media has a responsibility  in facilitating creative consciousness in pursuit of progress and development in society while also transforming Science and Technology issues into interesting news items.

“For a communicator to succeed in carrying out the functions of informing, educating and entertaining, he must produce interesting and understandable reading, listening or viewing. The communicator should not only communicate in order to gain a bye-line and earn a wage but should also communicate to be read, listened to, understood or communicate to control the actions of his audience, that is, the agenda-setting”, he noted.

He further said , “If the audience loses interest while going through a news item, they quickly go to the next article, switch to the next station, put down the publication, turn off the set or even worse, read, listen or view without really being interested and miss the point. This leads us to a formula for effective communicating of S&T issues interesting reading.”

According to Dagogo-George, to achieve interesting the report must be produced by someone who is versed and interested in what he is writing adding, “When a reporter writes from the realm of his interest or develops interest in any assignment he is given, he will go the extra-mile in producing an interesting reading.  If he does not have interest in what he is writing and is not capable of developing one in a given assignment, it is doubtful if he can produce an interesting reading.”

He added that it is important for the subject matter to be interesting or for the reporter to have the ability in making the reader to be interested in it to achieve interesting reading.
While tasking the media on the choice of material for interesting reading he said the reporter must  proceed to the unknown through the known noting, “For one to write to gain the reader’s interest, one may have to proceed through a thing of interest that is common to man.”