Capacity building of media. And of scientists.

Indian scientific publications have been doubling every decade. In terms of quantity, the number of scientific papers from India is now comparable to those of other developed countries. Many of these published results are applicable new knowledge that are useful to the citizens – farmers, housewives, doctors, engineers, fishermen, decision makers…

However, the quality of most of the manuscripts from India are poor and are often rejected without peer review or take inordinate time in acceptance and large enough number go without any citations later.

Moreover, the results that are useful to other citizens do not percolate and remain as pages in journals. Presently, in the Indian media, coverage of science is limited to about 4%. As per international standards, science coverage for a country like India, should be 10 to 15%. But the required expertise needed to deal with terminology ridden science and technology issues is lacking in media houses.

This site aims to reduce this difference between demand and supply of relevant knowledge and skills among scientists, researchers and science faculty on the one hand and media houses on the other.

The strategy

The strategy consists of capacity building of scientists, researchers and science faculty to write better scientific papers, reviews, grant applications and project reports. As well as news reports on recent research in an engaging manner.

The success of this strategy and the processes that are replicable are documented in a General Article in Current Science:

The Materials and Methods that the citizen journalists among the scientific community can use are documented in the e-journal, Dialogue: Science, Scientists and Society:

Activities

The capacity building activities offered are two-pronged.

  1. Web-based virtual workshops to provide relevant background knowledge and to orient attitudes
  2. Face-to-face workshops that focus on building skills.

The web-based activities are initiated one month before the face to face workshop. The activities are designed to overcome the lacunae in science education that is divorced from the personal, social, cultural, political, economic and historical perspectives.

Transfer of knowledge to those who have gone through tertiary education is easily, effortlessly and efficiently achieved by a virtual course on the web. In the long term, the web platform also helps to tweak attitudes, give feedback and mentoring. But for building skills, face-to-face personal interactions are necessary.

The face-to-face workshops are usually intense. Packed with content, packaged within group discussions, small group activities, exercises, games, demonstrations, and actual work.

We prefer residential workshops because the intention is to immerse the participants in situations that call for use of the skills, under supervision and feedback.

Output

No person has learned to write well because of participating in a workshop. To develop writing skills, it takes practice. After the face-to-face workshop, the virtual workshop continues. The participants – those who wish – continue to practice. And we create platforms where their writing skills are displayed. Though it is mere practice, the outcome has practical use. They are published.

Presently, there are three such platforms for people who are trained.

  1. A column titled Science Last Fortnight in Current Science, a multidisciplinary journal published from Bangalore
  2. A column titled Lab to Land in Kerala Karshakan, an e-journal published by the Kerala State Farm Information Bureau
  3. STEAMindiaReports, a website

We are not counting the scientific papers, reviews, reports etc. written by those who are trained.

How does it work?

Presently, there are two series of workshops on science writing.

One is organised by Current Science. Though they started out as five-and-half day workshops, as per the demand of the participants the duration was extended to eight days. The workshop is now open for hosting by research rich institutions. The target group is scientists and science faculty.

The other is a series of two-week workshops on science writing organised by Vigyan Prasar, usally in the IISERs. This series targets PhD scholars and Post Docs.

Individual institutions also invite us for such workshops. M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Guru Jambheswar University of Science and Technology, Central University of Kerala are examples.