‘Make it simple, please’

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Science and media practitioners in Uganda developed a dictionary that provides simple translations of terms used in biotechnology.

FOR six years, Ugandan policymakers and journalists have expressed frustrations about the difficulty in appreciating scientific terminologies and messages presented about biotechnology.

On many occasions, non-scientists have volunteered to simplify the science with limited success. For this reason, Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) brought together science and media practitioners to develop the first ever dictionary that provides simple language translations of some of the terminologies used in biotechnology and biosciences.

UBIC further intends to have this dictionary translated from English into key languages spoken in Uganda and the region such as Kiswahili, Luganda, Runyakitara, Luo, Acholi, and Ateso.

“Science communication is challenging owing to the fact that most scientific technologies originate in the western world and thus African languages often do not have accurate translations of scientific terms,” noted Dr Anton Bua, a senior scientist at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI).

“The goal is to simplify how we communicate science and make sure that no matter the language spoken, the audience received a similar message,” said Dr Barbara Zawedde, UBIC Coordinator during a recent launch of this initiative at one of NARO’s Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute in Uganda.

Dr Barbara Zawedde, UBIC Coordinator.

Participants took part in identifying and simplifying some of the most commonly used terminologies by Ugandan scientists, and developing simplified messages for common socio-economic and ethical concerns associated with biotech crops.

Ambiguities in languages/semantics often distort the science messages making this effort extremely pertinent in an era of increasing and deliberate misinformation.

Once finalised, the dictionary will be widely disseminated to biotech communicators and champions to facilitate informed dialogue on modern agricultural biosciences and biotechnology. – Crop Biotech Update