The director-general of the Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), Prof. Paul Onyenekwe, has identified science communicators as very important in national development.
He made this assertion when he received post graduate students from the Institute of Strategic and Development Communication (ISDEVCOM), Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK) yesterday at the research institute in Kwali, Abuja, saying communicating breakthroughs in science often ignites socio-economic development.
Speaking exclusively to Science Nigeria, Onyenekwe harped on the importance of an interface between scientists and science communicators for effective communication of scientific breakthroughs and how it could benefit the citizenry.
“An interface between scientists and communicators are essential in the sense that scientists are not known to be good communicators. They carry out their research and just publish their findings in journals. This is why breakthroughs always end up on the shelves. But communicators use common language and lexicon to communicate these finding which is more appreciated by the people. A relationship between both parties will result in scientists coming up with breakthroughs which are communicated by science communicators more appropriately to the masses and investors can now pick up these products for commercialization,” he said.
In his remarks, the leader of the delegation, Prof. Chris Etonihu of the department of chemistry, NSUK, agreed on the necessity of an interface between scientists and communicators, pointing out that science findings and researches needed to be communicated and in simple languages that the audience could easily understand.
“So, SHESTCO is a place where a lot of researches are going on. In fact, in this lab we are being told that plastics are biodegradable which hitherto we thought were nonbiodegradable. So, this information needs to be disseminated to the public and also tell them how the biodegradation can be done.
“It is very important for scientists to interact with communicators because what they do inside the lab is for the interest of the people. The people will not learn the benefit of what is going on in the labs if they are not communicated,” he stated.
Etonihu, who is also the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) director at NSUK, maintained that all the discoveries of science are for the good of humanity including the current COVID-19.
Every research going on has to be communicated to the people, he stressed, adding “that is why we thought the science communication students should come here and see for themselves the way researches are being done in laboratories so they can use their expertise in communication to communicate the findings.”
Speaking at the sidelines of the group tour, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) student at the institute, Mrs. Prudence Eboagwu-Ijah, spoke on the need to close up what she said was noticeable gap between “what is taught in the classroom and what happens in the laboratory.”
“So, without communicators coming to the laboratory to have a firsthand experience of what really obtains in the laboratory it becomes like a divergent theory and practical. But coming to the laboratory brings about a merger of the town and gown experience and also help communicators understand better what is being studied about and paints a clearer picture of what exactly happens.
“So, for me it provides an opportunity to actually understand better what happens in the laboratory. It provides an exposure that cannot be gotten in the classroom, and also helps for clarity as regards science and all we read about it,” she said.
Similarly, a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) student at the institute, Mr. Eric Adile, pointed out that a visit to the laboratory would give science communicators better understanding of how long it would take to record a breakthrough in science investigation.
“First of all, it is very important that science communicators visit science laboratory because most of the communicators didn’t study science and therefore do not have any science background. Therefore, coming to the science laboratory helps you relate with what the scientists and researchers are doing.
“If you have not visited the scientists in their work space, you may not be able to relate to understand what it takes to come up with the findings they give us. It is also mind-blowing that coming to this place we’ve been able to discover that for over 20 years of their practice most of the work they are doing is still in the test tube, this makes us understand that it takes a long time to achieve science breakthroughs,” he added.
On her part, a Master of Arts (MA) student at the institute, Ms. Amaka Agwu, restated that the basis of science communication is to help science communicators to understand how scientific related research are carried out.
Saying communicators cannot question things, which is the whole essence of science, Agwu maintained that a visit to the laboratory would help science communicators better understand how some things happen.
“As a science communicator, you cannot really question things if you really don’t understand the processes, so, having the experience with the people in the laboratory helps to understand how science research is done and this is really important,” she added.