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[CARACAS] Ten Latin American countries and Spain have agreed to set up a system to identify the most effective ways of bringing science to a wide audience.

The joint effort was proposed by the Andrés Bello Convention (CAB) on Educational, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Integration, and discussed at a meeting the convention held on 2-4 February in Caracas, Venezuela.

At the meeting, representatives of CAB signatories Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain and Venezuela, met with counterparts from Brazil and the Dominican Republic. Mexico and Chile, both members of CAB, were unable to send representatives to the meeting.

The delegates agreed that an evaluation of science popularisation activities was necessary, and signed an agreement to set the system up.

"We all want to have a system that allows us to measure best practices in science communication," said Carmelo Polino, a social scientist from the Center for Studies on Science, Development and Higher Education (REDES), based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Grisel Romero of the Venezuelan Ministry of Science and Technology said that comparing different methods of science communication would make it easier to design national policies for communicating science.

CAB proposed evaluating different ways of bringing science to a broad range of audiences using a set of indicators, including assessments of sustainability, effectiveness, and whether or not the initiatives build capacity for science communication.

The evaluation should allow the most successful approaches to be replicated elsewhere. Colombia for instance, has a long tradition of organising science fairs for young people. If the assessment shows this is a valuable approach, other Latin American countries will have access to information on how to organise such events.

Similarly, the assessment could compare the approaches taken by science sections of national newspapers in different countries to determine what works best.

At the start of the project, those involved in efforts to popularise science — including television programmes, websites, museums, and newspaper science pages — will be invited to complete a questionnaire on the Internet. This information will then be analysed to identify the most effective approaches.

The delegates in Caracas agreed to ask the Argentina-based Network on Science and Technology Indicators (RICYT) to provide advice on which indicators to use, as it is experienced at designing systems to measure different aspects of the science and technology sectors in Spain and Latin America.

Alfredo Tolmasquim, representing Brazil, said that science communication faced obstacles in his country and that the system would be very useful.

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