Science communication made easy
Botswana will in the near future implement a new strategy that will help in simplifying science language in research. Work for formulating the strategy was made possible by the fact that Botswana is a member of the Science Granting Council Initiative, an initiative for Science Granting Councils in sub-Saharan Africa whose main focus is on strengthening the capacities of SGCs in order to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Science Communication and Public Engagement Strategy for Botswana has been finalised and handed to the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology for approval, Deputy Director at the Department of Research Science and Technology, Oabona Monngakgotla says. He said the document was submitted to the parent ministry last year December. “Documents have to go through a consultative stage, before they become national documents. Government has to endorse,” he said.
Emphasising on the need for Botswana to have a Science Communication and Public Engagement Strategy, Monngakgotla said there is a realisation that information about science is not very easy to communicate. “It’s either you communicate it as a scientist and leave out quite a number of people who don’t understand science terminology, or you don’t share with the public entirely,” he said. The purpose of the Communication Strategy is therefore to look at ways at which to engage the public with science communication fairly well and easily for the communities to understand what we want understood about science in the barest and most simplistic way an ordinary man in the street would understand, Monngakgotla said.
“This strategy really looks at ways in which we could engage; those with the scientific knowledge will engage those that need to understand the scientific knowledge and create a kind of relation between the scientific community and the society at large in terms of understanding science and understanding the importance of science and see how they can take science further in terms of understanding and application,” he noted. Once the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology approve the strategy the next stage is to present it back to the private sector for implementation.
“We were doing this strategy with the private sector, we consulted them. The industry is playing a critical role and government has provided a conducive environment at policy level,” explained Monngakgotla. Responding to a question on whether being a member of the SGCI has given the department any opportunities to inform/influence policy processes in Botswana, Director in the Department of Research Science and Technology, Lesego Thamae said the Science Communication and Public Engagement Strategy is one of the Department’s contributions to policy processes.
The other document, which the department worked on, is the Private Sector Engagement Strategy for Research, Science, Technology and Innovation. “The two strategies are quite critical for us as a country,” Thamae said. The Private Sector Engagement Strategy for Research, Science, Technology and Innovation is also with the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology for approval.
Thamae, who praised the handholding by the SGCI throughout the processes, said the strategy will help the country in having research and innovation being better coordinated and funded. “Having that also as part of SGCI, participat- ing in capacity building sessions helped us as we developed the documents,” she said.