If you want to go far, go together – partnerships to create African science centres

If you want to go far, go together – partnerships to create African science centres

Author: Graham Walker – CPAS, Australian National University, Australia

As science communication becomes a global endeavour, organisations in affluent developed and poorer developing countries are establishing partnerships to build science communication capacity. It seems both apt and morally responsible that societies that place value on communicating science should share such practices with disadvantaged societies in which it is absent. This raises practical questions, e.g. which models are effective; what are the barriers and promoters to building capacity? In addition, there are deeper philosophical questions with profound practical implications – e.g. how can programs be relevant, acknowledge place and culture, ensure ownership, and not repeat colonialist mistakes? Critically, which approaches do organisations in developing countries want?

This paper addressees these questions using a case study of an Australian National University capacity building program Science Circus Africa which aims to develop science centres, science outreach programs and broader science communication capacity across Africa. While science journalism, training of scientists and other forms of science communication are developing across the continent, science centres and informal science learning and programs to develop them are sadly lacking – the vast area between South Africa and Egypt has only three science centres. Science Circus Africa – working hand in hand with passionate African partners – is making progress to change that.

The program includes training and outreach projects reaching over 68,000 people in seven countries – with the African organisations trained now reaching far more – along with intensive training for African science communicators in Australia. To answer the questions above, longitudinal quantitative and qualitative research on the training program will be presented – focussing on the often-overlooked viewpoints of trainees – along with reflections on programs in Africa which the author has been running since 2003. This evidence will be distilled to establish the qualities of effective science communication capacity building for the developing world.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Comparing science communication across cultures