Biotech Updates

Journalists and Policymakers Demand for Simple Biotech Messages

July 3, 2019

For six years, Ugandan policymakers and journalists have expressed frustrations about the difficulty in appreciating scientific terminologies and messages presented about biotechnology. On many occasions, non-scientists have volunteered to simplify the science with limited success. For this reason, Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) brought together science and media practitioners to develop the first ever ‘dictionary' that provides simple language translations of some of the terminologies used in biotechnology and biosciences. UBIC further intends to have this ‘dictionary' translated from English into key languages spoken in Uganda and the region such as Kiswahili, Luganda, Runyakitara, Luo, Acholi, and Ateso.

"Science communication is challenging owing to the fact that most scientific technologies originate in the western world and thus African languages often do not have accurate translations of scientific terms," noted Dr. Anton Bua, a senior scientist at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI).

"The goal is to simplify how we communicate science and make sure that no matter the language spoken, the audience received a similar message," said Dr. Barbara Zawedde—the UBIC Coordinator during a recent launch of this initiative at one of NARO's Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute in Uganda. Participants took part in identifying and simplifying some of the most commonly used terminologies by Ugandan scientists, and developing simplified messages for common socio-economic and ethical concerns associated with biotech crops.

Ambiguities in languages/semantics often distort the science messages making this effort extremely pertinent in an era of increasing and deliberate misinformation. Once finalized, the ‘dictionary' will be widely disseminated to biotech communicators and champions to facilitate informed dialogue on modern agricultural biosciences and biotechnology.

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