World Federation of
Science Journalists

1st World Conference of Science Journalists

Science writers and publishers from 31 countries who gathered in Japan for the First World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ I) demonstrated their concern about the development pattern adopted by the industrialized ations, which has not only contributed to the growing misery and poverty of the developing world but which has led to the deterioration of the entire world environment. The conference, held in Tokyo, November 10-13, 1992, was sponsored by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science, and Culture (UNESCO), in cooperation with the European Union of Science Journalism Associations (EUSJA), the International Science Writers Association (ISWA), and the Ibero- American Association of Science Journalism (AIAPC).

Its main theme was "Science in the Service of Humanity." The program began on the morning of November 10 with an opening address by marine biologist, undersea explorer, and science popularizer Jacques Yves Costeau who described "The Science Journalist's Role in Earth`s Future." Setting a tone for the next few days of discussion, Costeau cited the loss of human values caused by current patterns of development, and surprised the attendees with a bruising denunciation of the industrialized nations for their lack of response to the plight of the poorer nations and their contribution to environmental degradation.

The Tokyo Conference agenda included five plenary sessions and one special session devoted to science journalism, including an overview of the state of science writing worldwide; environmental journalism; medical and health journalism; the public understanding of science and technology; and the challenges to science journalism in the future, especially in the areas of electronic communication, access to information, and the standardization of multimedia software.

[The Brazilian Association of Science Journalism (ABJC) and the José Reis Center for Scientific Dissemination at the University of Sao Paulo's School of Art and Communication have copies of all papers presented at WCSJ I on file. ]

In addition to the formal sessions, examples of film and video documentaries were shown and examples of print media science communication from around the world were on exhibit throughout the conference. Brazil participated with examples of magazines such as "Ciência Hoje," "Globo Ciência," and "Superinteressante," as well as with audio-visual presentations produced by Globo Ciência, Estação Ciência, and Videociência.

Following their presentation in Tokyo, all these materials were donated to UNESCO. Of the 165 participants in the Conference, I was the only Brazilian invited by UNESCO; and, I was able to report on the "Brazilian Press Coverage of Rio 92." Other participants from Latin America - -one from each country-- represented Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Uruguay, and Venezuela. I also made a presentation on November 13 as part of a panel discussion on "How Science Can Help Earth: Considerations about the Science Journalist's Role in the 21st Century," which was open to the general public. On November 16th, together with a journalist from Kenya and another from Sri Lanka, I met with some 25 members of the Japanese Forum of Environmental Journalists to discuss journalism and environmental issues in our respective countries.

One of the most satisfying aspects of the Tokyo meeting was the clear message that journalists and science publishers are both aware and concerned about the science and technology information gap between the developed and developing countries-- and the need to bridge that gap. Furthermore, the 119 Japanese journalists in attendance--a clear majority at the conference--demonstrated on several occasions their discontent with development patterns in their own country. Over the past 30 years, Japan has adopted the model of the West, with its emphasis on capitalism, competitiveness, and consumerism. According to many Japanese journalists, this model has brought unhappiness to families and individuals through the loss of cultural identity and long-time traditions.

"Our country has been infected by a culture that isn't ours," said Masahiro Okada, Science Director of NHK, the largest Japanese television network. "The price we've paid is extremely high, transforming our youth into a sad generation, where the highest ambition is to get the newest computer release." As a result of the discussions both in the sessions and in private, most science journalists gathered in Tokyo came to a conclusion that new development paradigms must be sought by all countries -- paradigms that respect not only the preservation of the world's environment, but its cultural diversity as well. The science journalist must have a new global vision of development that includes social, economic, and political consequences of science and technology advances--not just their news value.

In the Tokyo Declaration, a final document generated at the conference's conclusion, the attending journalists affirmed the need for the democratization of science and technology, including the free flow of information to both press and public. And they agreed that the training of young writers, especially in the developing countries and ideally supported by UNESCO, is essential if science journalism is to help build a better world in the future.

Tokyo Declaration

We, the participants in the First World Conference of Science Journalists, comprising 165 science journalists from 31 countries, meeting in Tokyo, Japan, from November 10 to 13, 1992, declare the following:

Being convinced that science journalism is an activity of prime importance in an age when science and technology permeate the whole of human life;

Recognizing that science and technology can contribute significanly to the solutions of various problems faced by humankind, we hold that freedom of research, freedom of the press, and access to information are essential;

Recognizing that the public awareness of science and technology is of particular importance to developing societies, we affirm that science journalism can be both a vehicle of knowledge and a tool for the improvement of the quality of life;

Further, being aware that science and technology can be a double-edged sword, science journalists must consider the potential social and ecological consequences of technological advances;

Recognizing that science journalism is a profession, its further develpoment through training and education programmes is necessary to enhance this professionalism;

Realizing the need for cooperation among science journalists, international exchanges of information and mutual support must be promoted; and,

Realizing that public understanding of science requires access to the sources of information, improves interation between scientists and the media is essential,

Therefore,

We recommend that all science journalists endeavour to provide mutually beneficial assistance to their colleagues throughout the world,We recommend that established science journalist organizations provide assistance where appropriate to new developing associations,

We recommend that the scientific community, including associations and institutions in both the private and the public sector, allow the free access to research information,

We recommend that UNESCO, in partnership with relevant professional training organizations and universities, continue to initiate and expand activities that will promote science journalism throughout the world.

Specifically, we recommend that:

1. UNESCO and its partners encourage the establishment of new associations of science journalists where none currently exists,

2. UNESCO and its partners initiate linkages between existing science journalists associations to establish a truly global network,

3. UNESCO and its partners continue to encourage the inclusion of science journalism in the curricula of universities and to promote inter-university cooperation,

4. UNESCO and its partners continue to offer short-term courses and training programs to further develop science journalism,

5. UNESCO and its partners study the possibility of establishing an international award to encourage science journalism, and

6. UNESCO and its partners sponsor further conferences periodically to continue the initiative set by the successful First World Conference of Science Journalists.

(Note: Copied from the website of the 3rd WCSJ held 24-27 November 2002 in São José dos Campos, Brazil.)