Nadia El-Awady, one of the conference speakers
As the World Conference of Science Journalists 2011 (WCSJ 2011) concluded in Qatar last week, delegates spoke on their experience attending the conference, which was sponsored by Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development for its first edition in the Middle East.
Nicolas Luco of Chile’s El Mercurio said, “This conference was a great reminder that we do not have to look only to Europe and the United States for leadership in science and research. The State of Qatar is setting a great example with the government’s decision to focus on science and research.”
Award-winning journalist Nancy Shute from the National Association of Science Writers in the United States led a number of sessions during the conference. She said about the conference: “I’m so glad that science journalists from around the world have been able to come to Doha to see the many science and research initiatives that are taking place here. I look forward to following these developments in the future because clearly there are some very interesting things going on here- particularly in reversing the brain drain of Arab scientists and encouraging homegrown science and technology here in the Gulf region.”
The final day of WCSJ2011saw hundreds of science journalists gathered at the Qatar Foundation Student Center to participate in sessions covering journalism in the fields of energy and environment, biomedicine, computing, agriculture and technology. The conference closed with a plenary session focused on journalism and democracy in the Arab world, with journalists from Tunisia and Egypt speaking on their involvement in the “Arab Spring” revolutions of 2011.
Qatar Foundation served as Leading Sponsor for the conference in and hosted the more than 700 delegates that attended WCSJ2011 at its campus in Doha.
Dr. Mohammed Fathy Saoud, President of Qatar Foundation, commented on the importance of science journalism: “Scientists have historically communicated from an ivory tower, but that time is over; we need to bring science to the community. It is part of our mandate at Qatar Foundation, and as scientists the world over, to make science available and accessible to the people in our communities.”
“Science, technology and medical research are not sustainable if we cannot make the humanitarian and social connection,” concluded Dr. Saoud.
The conference’s third and final day included sessions on writing for a non-English audience, reading medical studies, reporting on Japan’s nuclear crisis, and the power of agricultural journalism. Fahad Al-Attiya, Chairman of the Qatar National Food Security Programme, delivered the opening keynote lecture for the day’s sessions.
One of the conference’s most highly-anticipated sessions was the “Dragon’s Den: Stories from the Field to the Front Page,” which had delegates practice pitching story ideas to a panel of internationally-renowned journalists from Al Jazeera, SciDev.Net and Al Ahram Hebdo.
The conference featured prominent science journalists and academics from across the Arab region and the world over the three days of events, from June 27th to June 29th. Raghida Haddad, a journalist for the Lebanese magazine Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia who is leading the conversation on climate change in the Arab world, joined other figures such as Nobel prize-winning chemist Dr. Ahmed Zewail in attending the conference.
Qatar Foundation organized a range of field trips and site visits around the country to give delegates a firsthand glimpse of the many advances the Gulf state is making in research and science. Delegates visited ASPIRE Academy and Aspetar Hospital, MADA Qatar Assistive Technology Center, Lusail City, Al Jazeera, and the Museum of Islamic Art, as well as various sites within Qatar Foundation.
The decision to invite conference organizers to hold the WCSJ2011 in Doha reflects Qatar’s national vision for fostering a science and research culture in the Arab world, thus marking a significant occasion for Qatar Foundation.