We see increasingly in our society that there is a problem with how certain innovations are perceived. Among certain portions of the general public, there is mistrust and even fear of science and technology, and there are many possible explanations for this. Some argue that there is a communication gap between scientists and society owing to the inability of some scientists to communicate in plain language. Others have said that public ignorance and misunderstanding is to blame for this development.
The mistrust and fear of science and technology can become a serious problem especially when it begins to influence how quickly a technology is adopted to solve local problems and drive national development.
This underscores the importance of bridging the gap between scientists and the society for more effective communication of science facts and findings, and how science, which is part of everyday human existence, can be effectively deployed to develop society and make the world a better place. This need gave rise to the establishment of the first science café in Nigeria, the initiative by Journalists for Social Development Initiative (JSDI) and Connecteddevelopment.org (CODE), aimed at providing an informal platform where stakeholders can come together and brainstorm on how best to leverage on the potentials of science and technology for sustainable living.
In a paper presentation entitled “Science, Technology And Modern Society: Role Of Communication In Promoting Sustainable Livelihood”, at the launch of the café in Abuja, the director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba, emphasized the importance of effective science communication for national development, citing the example of the controversy surrounding modern biotechnology, GMOs and biosafety in particular, in the country. He said it was an example of how the gap between scientific findings, and public opinions and attitudes could threaten new technological innovations.
“Today, there are quite a large number of research institutes across the country with over 100 universities researching into various areas of our national lives. Unfortunately, as many of our scientists lament, all this research ends up on the shelves of libraries and offices while the issues those researches should address continue to confront us in society. My challenge to Science Café Nigeria is to be a voice for safe science in Nigeria.
“Communicating science is a vital ingredient for development. Safe Science is a foundation for national development and if this foundation is not properly communicated, the nation may not reap the desired benefits. Communicating safe science appropriately will make Nigerians understand and appreciate the role science can play in their daily lives especially in agricultural development and industrial growth. It will also inspire our youth to boldly enter various fields of scientific study,” he said.
He expressed hope that the launch of Science Café Nigeria would teach people about safe science and technology, and reorient the public, pointing out that the agency is always ready to appear on the platform to support the initiatives and effort to promote sustainable livelihood through better understanding and use of safe science and technology.
“Issues like these are precisely why good scientific communication is important. The media is a powerful tool which we must use to take Nigeria from being a net consumer of the products of scientific innovations to being a pioneer in various scientific and technological fields.
“Good science journalism is first and foremost evidence-based. It is factual, solution-based, and cues into global trends and international best practices in the field of science reporting. It does not peddle sensationalism, conspiracy theories, half-baked data from unverified sources or uncorroborated statements as facts. These are the things that muddle up the public debate on science and technology in Nigeria. Good science journalism should help to build the consciousness of the people and educate them on the truth about certain controversial scientific and technological innovations,” he added.
Earlier, the coordinator of JSDI, Etta Michael Bisong, noted that science and technology is the key driver of human development, pointing out that because of the complex nature of science and technology people have jettisoned it, not minding the benefits that come with the technology. He said Science Café was designed to see how it could help bridge that gap of bringing people together to talk about the complex labels of science and technology to see how it could help simplify this concept so people could embrace science and technology and maximize the benefit that goes with it.
In his remarks, the co-initiator of the project, chief executive officer of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, said science and technology is supposed to help make our lives easier and better which is what the science café seeks to achieve.
Lawal represented by CODE’s head of governance, Emmanuel Njoku, said the platform should be seen as a farm to harvest ideas that would be deployed by stakeholders for the betterment of the society. Stakeholders would meet monthly on this platform to discuss specifics and engage on how we as a developing country can achieve the SDG goals for the good of all citizens, he added.
In his address, the director of Apudi Institute for Peace Studies and Social Rehabilitation (APIS), University of Abuja, Prof. Danladi Atu, said science and technology is the key driver of globalization, adding Nigeria must explore other frontiers of driving science and technology if it must successfully overcome the globalization challenge.
He called for exploring the frontier of teaching science out of the philosophical convention of ethics, saying the nation should domesticate science based on the ethical orientation of the nation.
In his goodwill message, the publisher of Forefront, Amos Dunia, urged the simplification of science in a modern language that would make science attractive to the ordinary man.