Bellagio Publishing Network  

BPN Newsletter Issue No 23, October 1998 


Science Communication for the Next Millennium: report of the Ninth International Conference of Science Editors, Egypt, June 1998

F J K Adotevi

F J K Adotevi is Chief Scientific Information Officer, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, PO Box M32, Accra, Ghana. Tel +233 21 777651, fax +233 21 777655.

The Ninth International Conference of Science Editors (IFSE-9), on the theme of `Science Communication for the Next Millennium', was held in Egypt in June 1998. The conference was organised jointly by the International Federation of Science Editors (IFSE) and the National Information and Documentation Centre (NIDOC) of the Egyptian Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, under the auspices of the Minister of Higher Education and State Minister for Scientific Research, Egypt, and the President of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt.

The primary goal of IFSE is to improve scientific communications throughout the world. IFSE aims to sharpen the awareness of the role of science editors by providing a focal point for editors in the scientific community. IFSE is dedicated to answering the need for scientific expression in the less-developed parts of the world and promoting their publications. It has helped found the African Association of Science Editors and the Middle East Association of Science Editors.

The keynote address, `Breaking the barriers to knowledge: building the bridges to understanding' was delivered by Dr Adnan Badran, Deputy Director General of UNESCO. The 50 papers presented to the conference addressed nine themes.

Global communication today and tomorrow concerned the importance of scientific journals in promoting scientific research, academic excellence and global information exchange. One way of sustaining publication of scientific journals in developing countries is to create opportunities for developing training programmes in the science and technology information delivery chain, including exchanges with well-known science publishing houses in the advanced countries. This will build up a professional cadre of editors and technical writers along with groups of active scientists and researchers. The scientist and editor together could contribute significantly towards producing more and better journals for the promotion of science and technology worldwide.

Ethics, authorship and peer review highlighted the concept of scientific authorship, the roles and responsibilities of authors, reviewers and editors, the peer review process and the editorial decision-making process. The flood of science and technology information and the increasing amount of published information place more responsibilities on researchers, authors and science editors. It is important to establish standards and codes of conduct as well as rapid communication, publication and dissemination of research results. This will maximise the use of research findings and their application for development.

Communication in institution-building: the role of scientific publishing in national development. Papers presented under this theme included that of the author of this report, entitled `The role of scientific publishing in nation building', pointing out that scientific publishing is a specialised enterprise and may not be economically viable in developing countries where, in most cases, the science and technology infrastructure is too impoverished to attract investment from private commercial publishers. It recommends that scientific publishing should be managed by scientists and scientific organisations. Publication and dissemination of the results of national research and development activities help in strengthening and expanding national scientific and technological capacity and capability. Recognition of the science and technology sector as an engine of growth should include financial support for a science press to promote academic and research activities.

The paper entitled `The importance and problems of transfer of technology to third world regions' noted that technological innovation in third world countries is difficult. To benefit from technology transfer it is important to seek appropriate technology that can be applied using local material and human resources. Such technology transfer must be economically, socially and technically competitive in order to make a strong impact. It requires patience, persuasive skill and the continuous support of those with financial and administrative power.

The paper entitled `What will be left of African scholarly journals?' described the African Journals Support and Development Centre1 (AJSDC), set up in 1997 to promote and support scholarly journal publishing in Africa.It implements three programmes: the African Periodicals Exhibit (APEX), the African Journals Distribution Programme (AJDP) and the Research, Training and Education Programme. The AJDP, on behalf of university libraries, purchases journals published in Africa to make them available to scholars and academics in other African countries. This strengthens African academic journal publishing by providing subscription income and making African research more widely available. The Research, Training and Education Programme organises workshops and seminars on scientific journal publishing and management. Scientists and journal publishers in Africa should be made aware of the importance of electronic publishing and its benefits to scholarship. This could be facilitated by AJSDC fostering publishing partnerships to encourage sustainable publishing programmes in Africa.

Training needs of journals editors in developing countries. Special skills are needed in publishing and managing scientific journals. With the growth of scientific research worldwide and the need to disseminate research results as fast as possible, the quality and management of scientific journals needs to improve. Training is needed to arrest the problem of instability and unprofitability of scientific journals in developing countries. Developing countries have neglected the importance of journals for promoting research, technology and academic excellence owing to the dearth of qualified people and the lack of funds.

The language of science: improvement of science writing and publishing looked at improving scientific writing and publishing of research papers, MSc and PhD theses. Many published research papers and scientific theses do not comply with international standards. One presentation outlined common faults in scientific writing, made recommendations for the correct use of scientific expressions, and proposed standard guidelines. Another presentation gave guidelines for editing, typesetting, typefaces and layout for electronic publishing of scientific journals in Arabic.

Electronic publishing: the Internet and database offered papers about the information department of the International Centre for Insect Pathology and Entomology', the database as a tool for publishing and the evaluation of scientific research productivity, and the impact of electronic networks in Egypt.

Public understanding of science included `science for children' and `the designing and publishing of an environmental magazine for children and its use as a teaching aid', which gave interesting accounts of projects in Kenya and Malaysia promoting science education.

Other themes at the conference were: The popularisation of science and The role of science innovation.

A workshop for journals editors (covering policies and peer review, production and finances, and electronic publication) dealt with the technical and administrative management of scientific journal publishing. The discussions about the tools used and the responsibilities of key players were highly stimulating and challenging.

IFSE-9 provided a good forum for scientific communicators to share views and knowledge, and an excellent opportunity for the promotion of international collaboration. It highlighted the importance of science communication as a tool for the enhancement of scientific scholarship and research.

Scientific knowledge doubles every five years. Without regular exchange of ideas science and technology cannot advance and science communicators cannot build efficient science communication systems. The discussions at this conference suggested that there is no human activity more interactive than science, and scientific communicators depend on each other to establish an integrated system for communicating the results of scientific research.

The need for training in science communication was particularly emphasised, especially in African countries where many academic institutions lag behind in publishing their research findings. It was the consensus that research publications are important for promoting academic excellence. However, quality depends on good editing and publishing skills. Peer review in journal publication guarantees quality control and editorial standardisation. Electronic communications can and should be used to facilitate and speed the process but many of the traditional publishing routines are still required. The benefits of electronic publishing cannot be obtained if it is regarded merely as a version of the old paradigm. New technology should not become a means of worsening the information-poor status of developing countries, and training is much needed if the new technology is to be used efficiently and properly.

IFSE-9 fostered the renewal of international co-operation and the sharing of emerging knowledge and practice in science communication. IFSE is committed to making increasing efforts to stimulate co-operation and partnership between its members on a scale needed to meet the challenges facing science communicators in the next millennium.

1. The AJSDC is located at the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), PO Box 14798, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel +254 2 884401-5, fax +254 2 884406, e-mail: [end]  [BPN, no 23, 1998, pp 8-10.]

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