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[QUITO] Latin America's media should pay more attention to the continent's science and technology sector, according to science communicators who spoke at a meeting last week (24 November) in Quito, Ecuador.

The 'Meeting on Science Communication' was organised by SciDev.Net and Ecuador's National Secretariat for Science and Technology and National Foundation for Science and Technology, with the support of the Catholic University of Ecuador and the Central University of Ecuador.

It included presentations from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Spain, and was attended by 100 people including journalists, scientists and students.

Javier Cruz, a science communicator at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said three factors are behind the low profile of regional science news in the Latin American media.

Cruz said the continent’s journalists are not used to writing about science, there is little public demand for debate on science issues through the media, and research institutions do not communicate effectively about the knowledge they produce.

Andrea Rodriguez, science
editor of the weekly
newspaper El Comercio said
Ecuadorians enjoyed
reading science news

Credibility of local news sources is another issue, said Cruz. Journalists trust information from international news agencies such as Reuters but do not trust reports on regional science, he said.

Cruz is creating a science journalism unit in his university to improve access to information about research done in Mexico, and to train students.

The meeting also heard about efforts to improve coverage of science by the media in Ecuador.

Four years ago, Ecuador's National Foundation for Science and Technology created an agency supplying science news to the media. According to Maria del Carmen Cevallos, a journalist working for the foundation, 17 newspapers have since published a total of 750 stories it produced.

Cevallos says the initiative raised the media's interest in science, leading to newspapers, websites and television channels producing their own science stories.

Lucy Peralta, director of national news at the Ecuadorian television station Telesistema, confirmed this, saying the experience of carrying stories supplied by the agency was so positive it led to the channel covering science news itself.

Andrea Rodriguez, editor of a weekly science section in the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio, told delegates that a survey conducted by the newspaper in 2002 showed that 70 per cent of respondents enjoyed reading about science. In contrast, only 20 per cent enjoyed reading political news and 30 per cent enjoyed articles about the economy.