Unesco and the AU are to develop thegenre of science journalism in Africa overthe next three years. (Image: Unesco)Janine ErasmusFind out more about using MediaClubSouthAfrica.com materialThe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the African Union (AU) Commission have signed a special agreement to strengthen journalism in Africa, particularly in science and technology.The special agreement will see the two organisations working together to enhance the skills of African journalists and other media professionals in a series of initiatives across the continent and internationally.The agreement is expected to improve the quality of African journalism in general, and science and technology reporting in particular.Beninese mathematician Jean-Pierre Ezin, the AU’s commissioner for human resources in science and technology, and Unesco’s assistant director-general for communication and information, Abdul Waheed Khan, signed on the line in Paris on 8 July, bringing the agreement into immediate force.The two organisations have also agreed to meet at least once a year to consult on and assess the programme. An action plan is expected within six months of the signing.Unesco and the AU have identified a number of priority areas for collaboration. These include knowledge sharing; the evaluation of previous similar initiatives; the implementation of capacity building programmes; and the joint financing of projects and possible involvement of other partners.Journalistic centres of excellenceIn 2007 Unesco undertook a study to identify and document the capacity of 96 journalism schools across Africa. Emphasis was placed on those schools that showed real potential to be so-called centres of excellence.The project was conducted with the help of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, and the ESJ International School of Journalism in Lille, France. Media organisations around the continent also added their expertise.A comprehensive list of the participating schools was assembled in a database, which is accessible on the Unesco website. Under the new special agreement, the schools involved will be enlisted as training venues.Science journalism on the riseWith the increasing realisation of the importance of technology in the growth of the African continent comes a parallel awareness of the need for quality journalism, especially in the field of science. Science journalism is a relatively new speciality, but a growing one.At an assembly of science journalists earlier in 2009, it was revealed that the genre is flourishing in developing nations, while at the same time diminishing in some developed countries.Delegates at the 2009 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in February in Chicago, heard of a growing demand for science stories from both editors and readers in Africa and the Middle East. But in the US, media houses have cut back on their science reporters and some have even done away with their science departments altogether.Akin Jimoh of the Lagos-based Development Communications Network said that the developing world’s scientific loss was Africa’s gain. “Science journalism is growing [in Africa],” he commented. “Associations of science journalists are being formed in a number of countries. They have organised conferences in their countries to influence science policy.”Other reasons given at the recent Chicago gathering for the rise of science journalism included greater interest from the media in promoting science as a development tool, and the increased attention to issues of global interest, such as climate change.But in other more developed countries, the story has taken a different turn. US-based television network CNN is reported to have shut down its entire environmental, science and technology unit, while the respected Boston Globe publication is phasing out its science section over the course of a year.World science journalism conference for CairoLuckily for avid readers in the developing nations of Africa, South America and the Middle East, the future of science journalism is looking good – so much so that the next world conference of science journalists is to take place for the first time in Cairo. The conference is held under the auspices of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ).The Cairo bidding group fought off fierce competition from Finland, Uganda and Kenya to snatch the privilege of hosting the prestigious gathering. The Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Pirjo Koskinen was disappointed, but conceded that it was fitting that a developing country should next host the conference. “It’s very important for us to get to know Africa,” she added.Announcing the winning bid in June 2009, outgoing WFSJ president Pallab Ghosh expressed delight that Africa had been so strongly represented in the bidding process.Ghosh is succeeded as WFSJ president by Cairo-based Nadia El-Awady, a co-founder and past president of the Arab Science Journalists Association.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Contact Janine Erasmus at email@example.com.Related articlesPress freedom on Sanef agenda Africa’s new voiceYoung reporters go mobile Challenging media views of South Africa Media awards for SA womenUseful linksUnescoAfrican UnionAfrican Science Communication ConferenceWorld Federation of Science JournalistsNature News – science journalism special feature
3 October 2012 The University of Cape Town’s Professor Valerie Mizrahi was one of only 13 science researchers in the world to receive a Senior International Research Scholar (SIRS) award from American non-profit organisation Howard Hughes Medical Institute last week. The opportunity to mentor young scientists falls under the institute’s new initiative, the International Early Career Scientist Programme, which provides funding for a select group of scientists who are in the early stages of their careers and working outside the United States. It was launched earlier this year. “What inspired me is the focus on mentoring early career scientists,” Mizrahi said. “That’s where my passion is and that’s what I want to throw my energy into.” Mizrahi has won numerous other awards through the course of her work, including the 2000 UNESCO-L’Oreal for Women in Science, the 2006 Distinguished Woman Scientist Award from the Science and Technology Department and the Order of the Mapungubwe: Silver for contributions to biochemistry and molecular biology in the country. She was also elected into the Fellowship of the American Academy of Microbiology and given an ‘A’ rating by the National Rearch Foundation in 2009. SAinfo reporter Mizrahi is the director of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at UCT and is studying the organism that causes human tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The institute looks to understand metabolic flexibility and identify vulnerabilities within the disease in order to discover new drugs to combat the disease.Furthering biomedical research The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) International Programme supports scientists working in countries outside the United States where further basic biomedical research can be furthered. The SIRS programme is the latest of the institute’s policies to assist scientists around the world and aims to strengthen the global network of biomedical researchers. Each senior research scholar will receive an annual grant of US$100 000 for five years and will get the opportunity to present their research at HHMI, which will facilitate the exchange of new ideas, stimulate research and allow for collaboration. “These senior international research scholars are world leaders in their research areas. They will complement our efforts to support international early career scientists in a positive way,” HHMI’s vice president and chief scientific officer, Jack Dixon, said in a statement.Mentoring the next generation of scientists “Scientific research is a global endeavour, and these grants will provide an opportunity for these highly creative and accomplished scientists to explore new avenues of biomedical research and to mentor promising early career scientists across the world,” said HHMI president, Robert Tjian.