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[KAMPALA] Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has called on the country's journalists to do more to ensure that scientific research findings reach the public.

"Right now, money and effort are wasted in Africa because only yesterday's science can filter through to us," Museveni said in a speech delivered at the start of the Uganda Conference for Science Communication.

In his speech, delivered by minister for information and communications technology (ICT) Ham-Mukasa Mulira, he said there was a need to ignite debate about science "so that society as a whole is informed".

"Discussion of all aspects of [science] development has to satisfy all concerns raised by the public," he said.

"There is need to develop enough science communication capacity of our own which can easily explain new concepts early enough to make sense to our needs," he said.

Museveni noted the biotechnology debate, which has "gone on for a very long time while other parts of the world have moved to other technologies like nanotechnology".

Kathryn O'Hara, a professor of science broadcast journalism at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and broadcaster, who represented the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) at the conference, talked of common values journalists and scientists share.

"Scientists ask questions of nature and attempt to find answers through hypothesis and experimentation. Journalists too have to ask the right questions. Both don’t want to be constrained in their work. They want freedom to ask their questions and publish their results. And both want to search for the truth driven by curiosity and a sense of purpose."

In a communiqué issued at the end of the conference, William Odinga Balikuddembe — chairman of the Uganda Science Journalists Association (USJA) — noted that there is a conceptual gap between scientists and journalists that must be bridged for the betterment of society.

"The [president] has a keen interest in science and technology, and appreciates the role of science and communication in national development," Odinga said, adding that to ensure the effectiveness of science journalism, appropriate training, exposure and keen interest in science is required.

The conference, held last month (23–26 November), was organised by USJA, with support from WFSJ, the Climate Change Adaptation Fund, the state-run Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and the World Bank-funded National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO).