The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted the world and how it responds to emerging health threats. Science communication has emerged as a powerful tool for managing public health. Journalists and health communicators were looking for stories of hope and action and turned to researchers and scientists for this information.
Scientific evidence should inform public decision-making and support access to innovation and tools. In the African continent where some of the most infectious diseases cause untold suffering, it is critical that information about clinical research be shared with non-scientific audiences including policy makers, communities, and civil societies.
In response to this issue, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) organized a virtual science communication workshop from the 29 November to 2 December 2022.
Fifteen scientists, researchers, and programme managers from nine African countries attended the workshop which was geared towards equipping them with skills to communicate about their work. The participants were drawn from countries where the ANTICOV clinical trial is being conducted to find a treatment for mild to moderate COVID-19.
The workshop was facilitated by the Training Centre in Communication, an African-based training centre that teaches effective communication skills to scientists.
The areas of discussion at the workshop included messaging, working with the media, persuasive writing (including development of opinion pieces), and using social media as a platform for science communication.
Guest speakers from the media were invited to the workshop including a health journalist who took the participants through a practical session about responding to journalists during an interview. The Conversation Africa editors were also present to encourage the scientists to submit opinion pieces about important topics. Four out of the fifteen participants from the workshop went through more specialized mentoring and have submitted opinion editorials for publishing.
This workshop is part of DNDi’s efforts to strengthen capacities of both journalists and scientists to communicate effectively about research. DNDi has already conducted three media workshops for health and science reporters from Africa and Asia to help reporters better understand complex science. Building the capacity of scientists will help grow the number of expert sources for their articles and bridge the gap between these two groups.