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Communicating science is a tool to empower people

Wednesday, December 05, 2012 12:00 AM    Views : 8835by:Aristotle P. Carandang, Ph.D.

Communicating science is no walk in the park.

More often than not, when one hears that science stories are what we do at the Science and Technology Information Institute (STII), indescribable face is what we see; eyes wide open maybe because of awe, confusion, or even irritation. ‘Nose bleed' is the most popular phrase we receive as compliment.

True enough, writing science stories is a task so huge that even the most seasoned writers sometimes become ‘lost in translation.' Yes, translation becomes an effective tool to make people appreciate and understand science information. Technical journals and scientific breakthroughs are turned into popular messages to be easily absorbed by intended audiences who frequent the cyberspace, lounge at the comforts of a sofa or bed, or negotiating traffic along the major thoroughfares. And this is hard sell.

In the past, these stories came only as print articles with few broadcast as feature stories. They were all written in English and most were in the areas of health and agriculture. But with the advent of the internet and as netizens continue to grow exponentially, science stories become readily available to those who have access.

However, as there seems to be a deluge of information, one cannot be so sure on the veracity of information that sometimes results in misinformation in some cases. Here, conflict arisesthat careful scrutiny becomes necessary especially on the sources of such information. For this reason, STII, as the information arm of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST),ensures that information shared to audiences are accurate, even timely.

Perhaps one problem that is started to be felt in the country is the shrinking number of the reading public, a fear that is so real that it has affected the publishing industry. In fact, some publishing houses in other countries have closed shop.

This does not, in any way, affect the advocates who are continuously trying to bring back the ‘glory days' when people ensure that reading materials were part of their daily needs and reading was a regular exercise.

For us in STII, we find ways and means to ensure that correct information about science and technology are shared to everyone – our small way of bringing back the habit of reading. Our effort becomes somehow different because of the value added as accurate science information becomes readily available in any form the readers want.

In doing so, creativity has to be harnessed. Even traditional media become important alongside the latest tools.

The past two years have become witness to the efforts of STII and its people in reaching out to more and varied audiences. As if joining the bandwagon, we have also harnessed modern tools that have resulted in our STARBOOKS and science.ph. Fortunately, we have also found the needs of the marginalized who also crave for such information. We have, thus, established publications in the vernacular such as ‘BalitangRapiDOST' and simultaneously strengthened the presence of the Department over the radio, both FM and AM.

One that is truly challenging is the publication of ‘AngKomiks' in seven major Philippine languages: Tagalog, Bisaya, Iloko, Pampango, Bikol, Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), and Waray. The first story carried by AngKomiks is about the dreaded dengue and ovidical-larvidical trap or OL Trap developed by the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the DOST.

Now, we are trying to maximize the power of the lowly comics and other traditional media in communicating science. But these are only a few examples of some of the initiatives that a specialized information institute such as the STII does so that those in the periphery can be part of what many call as ‘inclusive growth'.

Even if the internet is the ‘in' thing, it cannot be disputedthat a greater number of Filipinos remain not connected (and disconnect for that matter) to the mighty worldwide web primarily because of inaccessibility; and this, of course, is due to a number of factors.

Those in the periphery of development – the marginalized – not only have the time to read but also have the right to be informed. Materials such as comics, posters, community papers, and other forms that are slowly being forgotten by ‘modern' development workers remain to be powerful tools in sharing important information and encouraging reading habits.

State-of-the-art equipment and ultra-modern gadgets do not monopolize information sharing no matter how technical the information is.

The challenge is how to make such information easily understandable and readily available so that everyone can make informed decisions.

Communicating science, as I conclude, then becomes a way of empowering the people.

S & T Trivia

" In 1971, a team was led by Dr. Emerita V. de Guzman in making the first makapuno (coconut mutant for delicacies) harvest from a test tube. A student at the University of Santo Tomas named Teodula K. Africa made the first nata de coco (fermented coconut gelatin) in 1979. "

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