There is a strong need for scientists to learn how to simplify their messages for a non-scientific audience. This was a key take away from a two-week science communication training workshop organized by BecA-ILRI Hub in collaboration with ISAAA AfriCenter and the International Foundation for Science (IFS) at ILRI campus in Nairobi. The workshop comprised of two modules with the first, running from 27th-30th November 2017, carrying 25 participants while the second cohort, comprising of 28 participants, is currently underway (ending 7th December 2017). The training seeks to strengthen the capacity of African National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) to drive agricultural research and innovation in Africa, for Africans.
ISAAA AfriCenter’s Director Dr. Margaret Karembu took the group through rules of effective communication and the importance of planning their messages, building trust with stakeholders, and communicating key message within the shortest time possible. Dr. Karembu noted that a non-scientific audience is more interested in knowing the impact of research as opposed to the process of research, emphasizing that researchers need to identify strategic ways to communicate their findings. “There is a difference between giving out information and getting through to your audience, differentiate between information sharing and communication,” she said.
Senior Scientist and Head of ABCF program Dr. Wellington Ekaya acknowledged that effective communication is key in translating research findings into impact for society. “Without communication, the innovations resulting from scientific research remain closed up in our laboratories when they should be transforming our agricultural systems” he said.
Scientists acknowledged the importance of engaging with mass media alongside using social media as an avenue to disseminate scientific information to the public. Participants were taken through mock media interviews where they were tasked to pass a key message for a non-scientific audience using principles and techniques learnt during the training. The importance of developing relationships with journalists was identified as a crucial media engagement strategy. “I learnt a lot on science communication, from principles of communication, to message development and effective engagement of policy makers. Continued use of this information will definitely improve my science communication skills” said Judith Makombu from Cameroon.