World Federation of
Science Journalists

Netherlands supports WFSJ SjCOOP Project

October 25, 2010 posted in SjCOOP
(Gatineau – Canada – 25 October 2010) --- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands has approved a contribution of $ 677,891 Canadian dollars to the second phase of the World Federation of Science Journalists’ flagship project SjCOOP.

SjCOOP phase two, which stands for Science journalism COOPeration, is a $4.3 million CAD three-year project which aims to train 60 science journalists across Africa and the Arab World, support associations of science journalists, and evaluate the contribution of science reporting to policy and decision-making in several countries.

By contributing to SjCOOP, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands joins the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DfID) -- SjCOOP’s leading donor --, and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.

Thanks to the Dutch contribution, the World Federation of Science Journalists will now be able to fully implement all components of the largest science journalism training project in the world.

The core activity of the SjCOOP project is the distance mentoring of 60 journalists who aspire to become science journalists, the mentees. There are three groups of journalists who are mentees: an anglophone group with five mentors mentoring 20 English-speaking journalists; an arabophone group of 5 mentors for 20 Arabic-speaking journalists, and a francophone group of 5 mentors and 20 mentees. Each group is headed by a coordinator from Africa or the Middle East.

The project started in January 2010 and will end in January 2013.

In July 2010, the three coordinators and 15 mentors underwent a week of training. Martin Enserink, a Dutch science journalist who is a correspondent for the prestigious scientific weekly Science, is one of the SjCOOP mentors.

Sjcoop regional workshop in Nigeria in Septembre 2010
(Mr. Enserink 2nd from the left)


In September, the three groups met separately in Abuja (Nigeria), Bamako (Mali) and Beirut (Lebanon). It was the first of a series of four encounters between mentees and mentors. And to make sure that the project will graduate 60 science journalists, three groups of 25 journalists participated in this first series of meetings. By the end of October 2010, there were still 72 journalists being mentored. DevComs of Lagos (Nigeria) was a major partner for logistics and travel while Fondation Mérieux supported some costs in Bamako.

In parallel to the individual mentoring, SjCOOP is supporting associations of science journalists through the twinning of the fledgling associations with well established associations and the funding of specific training activities.

The project will also provide for the further development of the online course in science journalism, already available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish, a task supervised by another Dutch national: Frank Nuijens, lecturer in science journalism at Delft University of Technology.

A key feature of the SjCOOP is extensive evaluation.

A catalogue of quality criteria for science journalism was developed by external evaluators who took into account the input from the mentors, the content of the online course in science journalism of the World Federation, and scientific literature. All 75 mentees participating in the initial three meetings were interviewed and submitted 10 articles (in Arabic, English or French). At the end of the training, another 10 articles will be analysed to measure progress in the quality of writing.

There are equivalent monitoring and evaluation processes for the coordinators, mentors and associations.

During the last year of the mentoring, the journalists will work in teams on investigative stories and mechanisms will be put in place to evaluate any influence or impact of the articles on policies and government decisions.

SjCOOP is large scale, multi dimensional, and thoroughly evaluated.

The first phase of SjCOOP, from 2006 to 2009, demonstrated that such regional projects create longer lasting effects at a regional scale. One example is the first pan-African monthly science magazine started by a mentor using the network of African SjCOOP mentees as correspondents. Several associations continued to implement their own training activities and the newly created Arab Science Journalists’ Association teamed with the United States’ National Science Writers’ Association to organize the first World Conference of Science Journalists that will be held on the African continent, in Cairo, 27 – 30 June 2011.

For more information on SjCOOP contact Ms. Olfa Labassi: olfa.labassi@wfsj.org / tel: +1 819 770 0776, and visit www.wfsj.org



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