Honing skills in science journalism

Scientists and journalists exchanging ideas to communicate science more effectively in the news.

KUALA LUMPUR: Scientists from local institutions of higher learning and journalists from the secular mainstream media got together recently to hone their skills in science journalism.

The three-day workshop which discussed effective ways to report science news in Malaysia was organised by the British Council Malaysia, Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) as the host venue.

The training module for the workshop was prepared by the Institute for Environmental Analytics (IEA), University of Reading, and was conducted by training and development manager, Victoria Lucas and journalist/marketing & communications manager, Sally Stevens.

The workshop held from March 6-8 was a platform for scientists and journalists to learn new skills, share experiences, exchange ideas between them, and build a strong network to communicate science more effectively in the news.

Participants also engaged in practical activities that made scientists understand what needs to be reported, and for journalists to communicate the technical intricacies of science in a way that could be easily understood and appreciated by a secular public audience.

One of the participants, Dr Nethia Mohana Kumaran from the School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia shared on her perception towards journalists before and how that perception was changed during the workshop.

“I had the fear that the media would misinterpret scientific findings and affect the reputation of scientists. However, through this workshop, I understood more from a journalist’s perspective on what should be communicated, and now I’m more confident to share science news,” she said.

Sally Stevens believes science news in Malaysia is abundant and deserves adequate coverage by the local press because science and technology affects daily lives of humans.
She also pointed out that the United Kingdom (UK) has a “Science Media Centre” to bridge scientists and journalists so that science news can be effectively and meaningfully be reported.

“Having a Science Media Centre, such as the one in the UK, would help to ensure coverage of science news is accurate, reliable, and accessible to all. Having one in Malaysia would benefit science greatly”, she said.

Currently Malaysia is at the initial stages of establishing its very own Science Media Centre to propel more science news reporting from journalists.

Moving forward, input from the workshop and participants will be used to support the establishment and create an initial database of journalists and scientists in the country.