May 20, 2015
BITRI Workshop on Engaging Media and Research inaugural workshop was considered a success by participants. The one-day workshop which, had the dual goals of equipping the media with skills to enhance coverage of science and technology as well as to help the Researchers to communicate science and technology research information effectively was held on Tuesday 19 May 2015 at Botswana Craft in Gaborone.
In giving the Welcome Remarks, the Executive Director Technologies, Professor Shedden Masupe said, “The Workshop on Engaging Media and Research is vital as one of the Stakeholder Engagement efforts that BITRI employs to engage its publics. We needs the media to reach the different stakeholders who have an interest in the technological solutions that the organization has developed. In essence, the media is our interface to the end user and sits between us and the people we are supposed to provide solutions for. Therefore, we need to have strong a relationship with the media fraternity and help them understand our work so that they can effectively communicate to the publics.”
The Facilitator for the workshop Professor Harry Dugmore, conducted both the morning session comprising journalists and the afternoon session aimed at BITRI Researchers. During the morning session, Professor Dugmore addressed journalists on communicating science and technology using the five elements of effective science journalism and also helped the journalists understand the circumstances under which Scientists work and the rationale for their perceived reluctance to share information.
Dr. Sam Chigome and Dr. Goitseone Malumbela made presentations on “Water Safety and Nanotechnology” and “Kgalagadi Sand Building Blocks/ Bricks (KSBB),” respectively. Journalists had a chance to interact with Dr. Chigome and Dr. Malumbela and give them feedback on their presentations. The general sentiment from the interaction and the media session was that Scientists have to be more accessible and share information using a tone that the media as mediators between BITRI and the publics would understand. The audience also appreciated the use of day-to-day scenarios to help explain complex scientific concepts without losing meaning.
Researchers attended the afternoon session was aimed at coaching them on how to deal with the media better, and how to generate angles that help journalists create more accurate and effective stories. The participating group of Researchers were coached on the importance of sharing information to other publics other than the Science and Technology (S&T) community and had a chance to write short stories with leads and headlines, which Prof. Dugmore critiqued and advised on how to best pitch the stories. In the exercise, the facilitator attempted to impart skills that would enable Researchers to communicate in a way that captures the publics, whom are not necessarily from Science and Technology backgrounds. The principles imparted in the exercise are not limited to writing but also to broadcast media (radio and television) as well as digital media (online videos, social media).
On sharing his view on the workshop, one of the participants, Biki Kalake said, “I had an appreciation of the difference between academic report and journalistic reporting across different media. We as Scientists have to communicate in a way that a person at the receiving end of the message would understand. The Seminar was beneficial and I would appreciate it more it was for a duration of a week or more so we could have more practice and have a grasp of concepts being taught.”
Dr. Segomotso also concurred with Biki and expressed appreciation of the exercise, also adding that Researchers would appreciate if more time were to be accorded to the initiative. BITRI will host similar workshops in the future with the objective to equip the media with skills to enhance coverage of science and technology and to help the Researchers to communicate science and technology research information to the publics.