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The role of scientists in science communication

Thomas Egwang's comment about Africa's lack of good science journalists (see African scientists call for trained science journalists) may find echoes in many places outside Africa.  However, can scientists do anything about media ignorance and ensure accurate reporting? 

Yes, they can. Until there are well trained science writers, scientists will have to go an extra mile to put tricky concepts across to the public in an understandable language.

Explaining concepts without jargon and with everyday analogies wherever possible is the beginning. When journalists are reporting on a conference, a scientist's offer to review and explain difficult concepts to them helps. A willingness to take calls is reassuring to the journalist as well.

Where journalists have immediate deadlines, a jargon-free background document will serve well. Leaving press relation agencies to handle this task is hazardous. Their measure of success is soundbites, column centimetres, and the number of publications they get for the client.

Finally, a rapid course for scientists on how to write for the lay press may be a good idea.

Sumati K. Sampemane is a journalist in Mumbai, India. After 25 years as a science journalist, she now works for Business India.