Sixty science journalists in Africa and the Middle East are to be teamed up with experienced mentors around the world, under a scheme launched last week (19 February) by the World Federation of Science Journalists.
"Journalists in Africa and the Middle East told us they felt isolated," says Jean-Marc Fleury, executive director of the federation.
"They do not have networks or associations, and feel uncomfortable interviewing scientists and writing about complex research."
He hopes the three-year scheme will equip the participants to report on research done in their own countries, so that local expertise can contribute to public debate.
The project will bring 20 journalists and five mentors together in each of three regions — anglophone and francophone Africa, and the Middle East — to share knowledge gained from professional experience.
The peer-to-peer learning concept will be extended to associations of science journalists in Africa and the Middle East. These will be twinned with established associations in other countries, to help them to form networks and hold training workshops.
"The mentoring initiative could not have come at a better time," says Thomas Egwang, chief executive officer of Uganda Media for Health.
"At present, science journalism in Africa is patchy, inept and unreliable. It is ideal to match African science writers with their more advanced counterparts."
Egwang says trained journalists can help their nations develop, raising awareness and advocating for increased local investment in medical research and public health.
Canada's International Development Research Centre is funding the mentoring project with US$695,000 over three years.
Fleury told SciDev.Net that he hopes to get more funding to extend the project, and says the World Federation of Science Journalists will support it "for the long run".
To volunteer as a mentor, contribute or participate in the project contact: Jean-Marc Fleury, executive director, World Federation of Science Journalists. Email: [email protected]
The International Development Research Centre is one of SciDev.Net's funders.