World Federation of
Science Journalists

Arab Science Journalists visit the US under WFSJ Twinning Program

November 13, 2007 posted in Associations 1 comment >>


By Nadia El-Awady
President, Arab Science Journalists Association

All five board members of the Arab Science Journalists Association (ASJA) have just returned from what they view to be a fruitful visit to the National Association of Science Writers' (NASW) annual meeting, held in Spokane, Washington from October 19 – 20. ASJA's board also attended "New Horizons in Science Briefings" hosted by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) in the same venue from October 21 – 23.

The visit was a fruit of the recent partnership forged between the Arab Science Journalists Association and the National Association of Science Writers. The partnership developed out of the World Federation of Science Journalists' Twinning of Associations Program. The visit was supported by a generous US$ 10,000 grant provided equally by NASW and CASW.

During the visit, ASJA board members met formally and informally with NASW board members to exchange experiences in managing science journalists' associations.

"As a new association, we've learned much from NASW on how to improve the management of our association," said Fida Al-Jundi, ASJA's vice president.

Several ideas were also discussed between both boards' members for future joint activities. Ideas included conducting a jointly organized workshop on covering energy issues, providing internships for Arab science journalists in U.S. media organizations, and organizing special visits for American science journalists to the Arab world in order to learn how to cover science in developing world contexts.

from left to right: Zeinab Ghosn from Lebanon, Nadia El-Awady from Egypt, Dr Magdy Said from Egypt and Abdelhakeem Mahmoud from Yemen

 

"Together, we have laid the groundwork for future cooperation with our ASJA colleagues," commented NASW president Lee Hotz. "Science, they say, offers a universal language of human understanding. It is, therefore, critical that we all do as much as we can to foster the timely and accurate dissemination of scientific information worldwide. At Spokane, NASW and ASJA took an important step toward furthering that ideal," he added.

ASJA's board members also spoke at a special session on Arab science journalism titled "Arabs Writing About Science." The session included an overview of the current status of Arab science journalism, two talks about how religion, culture, and wars affect science writing in the region, and talks about environment and technology coverage in the Arab world.

"I took no less than four pages of notes on nearly every subject addressed," said Eric Dyson, senior communications manager at the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation. "From my perspective, the most valuable pieces of information were about the limited scope of science reporting, in other words the few dedicated science columns and features; and the influence of advertising on journalism," he said.

Conference participants also found mingling with journalists from other regions of the world informative.

"It made me think more broadly," said Monya Baker, news editor at Nature Reports Stem Cells. "Talking to [the Arab science journalists] made me grateful for the freedoms of the press that we Americans take for granted, and it drove home that we can't be complacent about those freedoms. I commission stories as an editor and I'm more comfortable commissioning articles from people I know or have met. Now I have resources I can reach outside the country. Also, the journalists were generous sharing their sources of information and research. I would not have found these resources on Google," she added.

NASW's international liaison, Deborah Blum, has been working hard to provide other Arab science journalists with opportunities to visit the U.S. As a result, a small delegation of Arab science journalists will be attending the next American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting which will be held in Boston from 14 to 18 February, 2008. Four of the visiting journalists will be supported by the AAAS and two journalists will be supported by the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships program. This is the first time for an Arab delegation to attend this important national science meeting.

Our visit to NASW has opened a channel through which we can do a lot to improve the skills of Arab science journalists in the Arab world, said Fida Al-Jundi, ASJA's vice president. "We now have access to very good resources such as universities, media organizations and NASW itself, and we hope we can utilize this access for the good of our journalists. Hopefully we will also provide access for U.S. science journalists to cover science and science journalism in the Arab world," he said.

Science writer Chad Boutin agrees and has even higher ambitions for this newfound collaboration between Arab and American science journalists. "While the Arab world builds up its science infrastructure, there is a terrific opportunity for science journalists on both “sides” to explore and communicate more than just science — we can bring a whole culture with us into our articles," he said. "The more such communication we have, both in newspapers and in meetings like NASW, the less likely we are to treat each other like faceless enemies. It might even enable and encourage collaboration between Western and Middle Eastern scientists, yet another way we can keep the world from splintering. Pardon the soap boxing, but those are lessons our leadership should have learned 50 years ago, and sadly did not. It’s up to us now," he concluded.


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The Arab Science Journalists Association is a member of the World Federation of Science Journalists, as is the National Association of Science Writers. ASJA became a member of the WFSJ in 2004 when it was still a budding online network of Arab science journalists. ASJA became an official entity in December 2006 and is registered under the umbrella of the Arab Science & Technology Foundation based in the United Arab Emirates. It now has 84 registered members in 15 Arab countries. It twinned with NASW early this year (2007). ASJA and NASW were both represented at the 5th World Conference of Science Journalists held in Melbourne, Australia in April 2007 where they spoke about their twinning experience in a special WFSJ session on forming science journalists associations.

 




Comments
Coordinator, MESHA
posted on November 18, 2007 by  Aghan Daniel
This is very encouraging. It is a challenge to other twins to look for ways of working together to promote science reporting in their geographical locations. We at MESHA in Kenya will be posting this article on our website soon.

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