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The president of the Brazilian Academy of Science has called on the media to help overcome a lack of dialogue between science and society in Latin America.

Eduardo Krieger, who is also co-chair of the InterAcademy Panel — a network of more than 80 science academies across the world — was speaking at a meeting last week in São Paulo, Brazil, on the topic “Science, communication and society: The Latin American experience”.

The meeting was organised by the Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net), in collaboration with BIREME — a centre of the Pan-American Health Organisation specialising in biomedical information — and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Rio de Janeiro. It marked the official launch of SciDev.Net Latin America, a network set up to promote the goals of SciDev.Net in the region.

In welcoming the launch of the new network, Krieger said that it was essential for the scientific community to communicate more effectively with the public about their work, particularly given the range of science-related issues facing decision makers at all levels in the modern world.

Hebe Vessuri, head of science studies at the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC) and one of SciDev.Net's trustees, added that the network — as well as an enhanced version of the Latin American gateway that will shortly become available on the organisation's website — could also help to overcome a lack of scientific cooperation in the region.

Vessuri pointed out that a special challenge was to achieve greater collaboration in science and technology communication. “We have many problems in common, but we still don’t have a regional space for science communication,” she said.

The new gateway was also welcomed by Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, rector of the State University of Campinas, who pointed out that although Brazil had significantly increased its scientific output in recent years, this was not yet reflected by its achievements in technology (for example, in the number of patents registered in the United States and Europe).

The president of the Colombian Association of Science Journalists (ACPC), Lisbeth Fog, echoed Krieger’s statements when she argued that successful communication of science depends on the competence of a key mediator between scientists and society, namely the science journalist.

Carlos Abeledo, a science policy expert from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, argued that unlike countries such as the United States, there was no ‘social contract’ between science and society in Latin America, adding that science policy “has never played a major role in public policy”.

He argued that Latin American governments do not fully understand the benefits that could be obtained if science was supported, and therefore fail to provide the financial resources required. This gap was reflected by the relative weakness in media coverage of scientific issues.

Finally Geoff Oldham, former director of the UK's Science Policy Research Unit, and the chair of SciDev.Net's trustees, pointed out that science communication was playing an increasingly important role in science policy making. “This process is becoming more interactive, more complex and more interesting, and as a result the role of science journalists and communicators is becoming increasingly important.”

A full report of the meeting will be published shortly on this website.