Almost 100 researchers and PhD students at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania are next in line to take part in a science communication training programme from SciDev.Net funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
The latest cohort, which will receive the training that aims to build the skills and confidence of researchers to reach policymakers and the wider public with their findings through the media, is the largest yet delivered at a single institution under the £234,000 project. The training will take place from 24 to 28 January 2022.
The two-year scheme was launched in late 2019 to help 500 scientists from 10 institutions identify the newsworthiness in their research findings before allowing them to pitch their ideas to real science journalists who may publish their stories.
Training will be conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will feature a self-directed course that researchers can take in their own time. It will cover five training topics including, practical ways to simplify technical information without compromising its meaning and using social media to communicate research.
A one-hour webinar on each training topic will also take place to facilitate questions and discussion. Finally, a networking event with science journalists will be held to enable the researchers to put into practice what they have learnt and share their findings.
Dr Charles Wendo is SciDev.Net’s Training Coordinator in charge of the training which has also been delivered to the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI), Ethiopia; the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA); Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique; Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA), Bolivia; University of Rwanda; and the Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Research and Education in Southeast Asia (SHAPE-SEA) programme, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand.
Dr Wendo said, “After a few trainings, COVID struck the world and we had to change from face-to-face to online training – which has worked well, perhaps even better than in-person trainings because online delivery offers greater flexibility for the student.
“The training is designed to increase researchers’ chances of influencing policy and personal decisions. It will also help the University of Dar es Salaam, and all the other institutions involved in the training programme, increase the translation of research into useful products, policies and practices for society.
“Ultimately, participants will have more skills and confidence to communicate their research to the media, policymakers and public. They will have journalist contacts who might be useful in reporting their findings in future.”
According to a 2014 report, commissioned by SciDev.Net and the London School of Economics, 62 percent of respondents in our global survey highlighted the reluctance or inability of academics to talk in non-technical terms as a barrier to journalists covering their stories.
A lack of ability to communicate research findings effectively results in poor uptake of research in policy spaces. This leads to a scenario where economic stakeholders dominate the policy landscape and scientific evidence is used post factum, to justify rather than inform policymaking decisions, the survey found.
Next in line to take part in the project will be Makerere University in March 2022.