Monday, July 29, 2013

International media puts science journalism on the news agenda

The Qatar Foundation hosted more than 600 of the finest science journalists from around the world for the inaugural World Conference of Science Journalists.

The three-day conference, held in Doha, promoted scientific and research excellence. It included plenary and parallel sessions led by international media and science experts on a wide range of topics including biomedicine, exploring the boundaries of science and communication challenges and focused on specific conditions and constraints facing science and science journalism in the Gulf region.

Against a background of science journalism that struggles for editorial content and attention in the news agenda of international print media, the president of Qatar Foundation Dr. Mohamed Fathy Saoud reminded the delegates that the Middle East was the birthplace of countless scientific and intellectual achievements in its Golden Age. “We are now experiencing a science renaissance in which Qatar is playing a prominent role – making this conference particularly relevant for the region,” he said.

Dr. Saoud also stressed the importance of science journalism and the role of the media in reporting scientific and research developments. “Scientists have historically communicated from an ivory tower, but that time is over. We need to bring science to the community.”

This was the largest gathering in Doha of international journalists from the Middle East and North Africa joined by science writers from 86 countries including the United States, the UK, Japan and Germany. The executive director of the World Federation of Science Journalists, Jean-Marc Fleury, told the conference that science journalists had a vital role to play not just in reporting scientific achievements but evaluating them. “With such huge investment in science and research in Qatar, strong science journalism was important for the region,” Mr. Fleury said.

Visiting journalists had an opportunity to learn and observe the many advances that Qatar was making in the core platforms of medicine, biotechnology, information and communications technology, environmental sciences, molecular sciences and nanotechnology.

At Education City, which is home to Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and the first US medical school to offer its fully accredited medical degree program outside of the US, the Qatar Foundation has also expanded its research and science portfolio by launching world class institutes including the Sidra Medical and Research Center and the Qatar Research Institutes to develop the country’s main issues in biomedicine, energy and environment, and communications.

On a larger scale, Qatar is investing in unlocking the country’s human potential and cultivating a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and dedication to advancing scientific leadership. Qatar Foundation board member and the Nobel Prize Chemistry winner in 1999, Dr. Ahmed Zewail was a keynote speaker. “Media and science have a huge responsibility towards society,” Dr Zewail said. “I am pleased that this conference in Doha comes at an historic time – the so called Arab Spring. A new era for progress through quest and dissemination of knowledge is now within reach.”

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