Scicomm X Communication Consultancy

Science communication in the Arab world is an exciting and rapidly growing field that is attracting the attention of professionals already immersed in the industry, as well as individuals aspiring to pursue a career in this field. Unfortunately, there are limited resources and opportunities for people who want to learn about science communication, especially in the Arabic language.

Currently, there are only two academic programs offering science communication training in the Arab world. The first is a master’s program in science journalism in Algeria, conducted mainly in French. The second is a bachelor’s degree in health communication at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, taught in English.  As a result, those interested in pursuing a degree in science communication often have to find themselves searching for programs outside the Arab world, primarily in English-speaking countries such as the UK, the US, Germany, or France, where they can study in either English or French, the two main secondary languages in the Arab world. But, there is still a lack of academic programs available in the Arabic language.

Importance of teaching science communication in the native language

Teaching science communication in the native language is crucial for the development of the field. In Brazil, for instance, several programs are taught in Portuguese, while in Europe, countries like Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and others offer science communication programs in their native languages. They also provide these programs in English to attract international students. That’s to say, having science communication taught in the local language is essential, as language plays a significant role in effective communication, and one’s native language shapes their perception of the world.

Additionally, considering the high illiteracy rates in the non-specialized audience of the Arab world, who primarily speak Arabic and can read in Modern Standard Arabic or Fusha Arabic, studying science communication in Arabic becomes even more important. By offering programs in the Arabic language, we can ensure accessibility and inclusivity, reaching a broader audience and promoting scientific literacy among the general public.

Contextual differences between the Arab world and the Western world

The field of science communication in academia is largely dominated by the Western world. Most research and models in this field have been formulated based on studies conducted in Western countries, where the relationships between science, society, policy-making, media, and other cultural factors, including religion, differ significantly from those in the Arab world. However, understanding the context, culture, and societal and political aspects is crucial in teaching science communication.

Also, It is crucial to consider the political context when discussing science communication in the Arab world. Many countries in the region do not have fully established democracies, and some even lack democratic practices entirely. This has implications for the relationship between research institutions, society, and the policymaking process. Additionally, the infrastructure for scientific research varies across countries, with universities and research institutions often funded by the government or the public. However, in many cases, the public has limited influence over decisions regarding the allocation of funds for scientific research. This lack of control is due to the absence of mechanisms that enable public participation. 

Therefore, if we aim to teach science communication in the Arab world, we need to develop models that consider these unique contexts and mechanisms. While we can draw on existing practices, the collaboration between practitioners and researchers in science communication is essential to create a comprehensive curriculum.

Efforts by the Arab Forum of Science Media and Communication

In the realm of science communication, collaboration holds immense significance, as I strongly believe. The Arab Forum of Science Media and Communication strives to achieve a crucial goal: fostering collaboration among universities, academics, practitioners, and researchers hailing from diverse scientific disciplines, communication, and media. Together, we aim to create a comprehensive curriculum that meets the specific requirements of the Arab world. Through this unified endeavor, our forum thrives on amalgamating expertise from various domains, ensuring that our science communication programs in Arabic remain pertinent, contemporary, and tailored to our unique context.

The Teaching Forum project

Another exciting opportunity is  the Teaching Forum project, which we are developing at the PCST Network (Global Network for Science Communication, Public Communication of Science and Technology). The Teaching Forum was conceived as a platform to gather existing science communication programs from around the world. Currently, our focus is on developing essential curricula and principles that can be adopted by universities interested in establishing science communication programs. Our primary objective with this project is to promote the sharing of best practices, facilitate the exchange of ideas, and foster the creation of a global network of science communication educators.

Building a Strong Foundation: Bridging Gaps, Empowering Professionals, Advancing Science Communication in the Arab World.

This is indeed the opportune moment for universities in the Arab world to start developing and teaching a curriculum in science communication in the Arabic language. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in science communication has continued to grow with the hosting of two COP conferences in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. These conferences shed light on the climate crisis and environmental concerns, leading to increased media coverage of these topics. As a result, there is a growing recognition among policymakers, the general public, and the media that we require individuals who can effectively communicate scientific concepts to non-specialized audiences. To meet this need, we should focus on developing science communicators and implementing science communication programs in the Arabic language. By doing so, Elsonbaty suggests that we can empower professionals in the field, cater to the local audience, and contribute to the advancement of science and society in the Arab world. 

How? Offering science communication programs in Arabic will empower professionals by providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively communicate complex scientific concepts to diverse audiences. By understanding the cultural nuances and language preferences of the local audience, science communicators can create content that resonates with and engages the Arab world.

Moreover, developing a strong science communication ecosystem in the Arab world will contribute to the advancement of science and society. It will foster scientific literacy, encourage public engagement with science, and promote evidence-based decision-making. By bridging the gap between researchers, policymakers, and the public, science communication in Arabic can facilitate the translation of scientific advancements into societal benefits.

In conclusion, science communication in the Arabic realm is an increasing field that lacks resources and opportunities. Teaching science communication in Arabic is crucial for effective communication and reaching a broader audience. The unique context of the Arab world necessitates the development of indigenous models and approaches to science communication. The time is ripe for universities in the Arab world to take the initiative and develop comprehensive science communication curricula that consider the unique context, language, and societal factors. Through collaboration, we can build a strong foundation for science communication in Arabic and pave the way for a vibrant and inclusive science communication landscape in the Arab world. By bridging gaps, empowering professionals, and advancing science communication in Arabic, we can foster scientific literacy, promote public engagement, and translate scientific advancements into societal benefits. Investing in Arabic science communication programs presents a valuable opportunity for universities in the Arab world to contribute to the accessibility and progress of science and society in the region.