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[PANAMA CITY] Latin American science must be promoted, and science communication in the region must be improved. So concluded participants at the second Latin American workshop on 'Science, Communication and Society'. Some 50 representatives of nine countries attended the event, held in Panama from 7-9 July.

"The work of the science communicators in Latin America should be to rescue the scientific and indigenous knowledge developed here," said José Edwin Parra Piñeros, of Javeriana University in Colombia and a writer for the Spanish language version of The Ecologist.

Gonzalo Córdoba, head of the Panama's National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (SENACYT), underlined the role that science communication plays in supporting science. "Science communication is central to research for several reasons," he said. "It encourages increases in both the number of scientists and in the research budget."

Alejandra Fernández, a journalist from the University of Costa Rica, said that science communication could also help raise the profile of individual scientists and of national science. She said that it is easier for Costa Rican scientists to be recognised abroad than within their own country or even their local scientific community. Bearing this in mind, she has helped develop a television programme broadcast by Canal 15 covering local and national research.

Cecilia Guerra, director of scientific research at SENACYT, said the meeting would have lasting effects on her country and institution. Specifically, it brought to her attention the role of science journalism. Until now, SENACYT'S science communication programme did not include a journalism component.

During the workshop, SENACYT and the National Council of Journalism signed an agreement to provide support for science journalism in Panama. The organisations will collaborate on several science journalism training initiatives, including workshops and a university course.

"We don't want this agreement to be forgotten like many others have been," said Juan Luis Correa, president of the National Council of Journalism. "So I pushed for a 30 day deadline to announce the first workshop."

The matter of how to evaluate science communication efforts was also raised. "It is urgent that we create strategies and mechanisms for evaluating science communication that take into account both the communicator and the product," said Elaine Reynoso Haynes, a member of the Mexican Society for Science and Technology Communication.

For Sylvia Rodríguez Dávila, who works at the National Network for Science Journalists and Science Communicators in Peru, training is a key issue. She hopes this will be one of the themes of a meeting soon to be organised in Peru by the National Council for Science and Technology, SciDev.Net, the International Potato Centre and local organisations and universities.

Lelys de Brugiati, one of the organisers of the Panama meeting, said the event had had very positive outcomes. However, she regretted the low participation from Panama, which she attributed to the low priority local journalists give science. "We still have a very few science communicators in Panama," she said. "Science is not yet an attractive issue for local journalists."

Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Peru, Mexico, and Venezuela were all represented at the meeting, which was organised by SENACYT (Panama), SciDev.Net Latin America, Cientec Foundation (Costa Rica), and Museum of Life — Casa de Oswaldo Cruz — Fiocruz (Brazil). The meeting received support from the Latin American and Caribbean science popularisation network Red Pop, SOMEDICYT (Mexico) and Explora (Chile).

Click here to read the workshop presentations (in Spanish)

Previous meetings' presentations:

1st Latin American Workshop 'Science, Communication, and Society' (Costa Rica, 2003) (in Spanish)

'Science, Communication, and Society in Latin America' (Brazil, 2003) (in Spanish and Portuguese)

E-guide to science communication: Spanish
E-guide to science communication: Portuguese