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Research institutes and laboratories in Africa have been urged by a group of science communicators from 10 African states to make greater efforts to inform the public of their scientific activities.

At the same time, the science communication specialists have suggested that all African governments should introduce comprehensive policies and strategies on science communication into their national planning and resource allocation.

They recommend that institutions of higher education in Africa, including in particular existing schools of mass communication, should be encouraged to introduce courses on science communication. They also urge media editors and other ‘gatekeepers’ to raise the priority given to science-related stories in their coverage

The proposals were agreed at the conclusion of a four-day meeting on ‘Science Communication for Sustainable Development’ organised by SciDev.Net in Entebbe, Uganda, which brought together more than 50 journalists, editor, public information officers and scientists engaged in communicating information about science to the public.

On the final day of the meeting (3 October) the participants issued a ‘consensus statement’ in which they expressed agreement that effective science communication has a vital role to play in promoting economic and social development. This was based on a shared belief that science communication enhances public understanding of, and engagement with, science.

However the participants also identified a number of obstacles to science communication in Africa. These included the low awareness by scientists of the importance of communicating their research to the public, an unwillingness by newspaper editors to give science significant coverage, a lack of suitable professional training and personal development opportunities for science communicators, and poor remuneration for science journalists.

Finally the participants agreed on a number of concrete steps that science journalists and other science communicator might take to improve the general situation.

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Link to consensus statement agreed at the meeting