Nigerian scientists have been urged to use their works to create functional links between the society and the way the people are governed.
Although the current situation in Nigeria depicts a huge gap between science, social development and governance, experts have said such a healthy nexus could be achieved using effective communication of sciences.
Akin Jimoh, Chief Editor of Nature Africa in a presentation during the meeting of national science associations in Nigeria hosted by the Nigerian Academy of Science on Thursday said science communication has a double edged advantage for both the consuming public and the scientific community.
For the general non-scientist audience, he said, “Science communication helps the people gain knowledge of the world around them, improves ability to make informed decisions and to use new applications derived from science.”
Linking this to the society, Jimoh said, “The society also benefits, because knowledge is shared and contributes to the well-being and economic development of a people,” adding that shared knowledge generates new research questions that could restart the cycle anew.
Using public health as a reference, Jimoh said often times Nigeria and other African countries are forced to employ curative interventions approaches to douse outbreaks and other disease crises that could have been prevented if the right information had been made available to the public in simple and timely manner.
He said the scientists also have a lot to benefit when their works are communicated beyond the scientific journals.
“Scientists benefit from greater public awareness, as it builds public trust in their work, help improve existing democratic processes, prevents the alienation of specific sectors of society and serves the interests of the scientific community and the bodies that finance it,” Jimoh pointed out during the meeting held virtually.
He said the scientific communities need to become more engaged in politics, business and the media, stressing that scientists need to make their findings more freely available.
“Communicating with the public is only successful if the public trusts the scientist”
On how this could be easily achieved, Jimoh said, “All parties in science communication need appropriate training. Journalists must be trained to understand how scientific knowledge is produced, and its limitations, while scientists must be trained to become more aware of the possibilities and limitations of different media for communicating with different audiences.”
Thursday’s meeting with national science associations in Nigeria comes after the inaugural one was hosted by the Nigerian Academy of Science in 2011 to initiate a process of realignment and re-organization of the Nigerian scientific community.
At that forum, it was agreed that the scientific community needs to meet regularly to assess progress, and articulate ways to ensure scientific development in the country. This led to the convocation of the National Science Summit in May 2015 to discuss strategies for improving scientific research and innovation in Nigeria, strengthen and build the capacity of science associations in Nigeria, as well as foster collaboration among national science associations and other key stakeholders for national development.
In August 2016, another meeting with science associations was held to discuss the outcomes of the 2015 Summit. One of the key recommendations from this meeting was that scientific information should be clearly communicated in order to effectively engage policymakers and society on scientific issues.