October 1, 2014

Reporting Science Conference- from evolution to revolution, 21-22 September 2010

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frayintermedia’s previous Reporting Science conference were a phenomenal success. One of its former key-note speakers, Dr Chris Smith – the British doctor/virologist better known as the “Naked Scientist” (after the award-winning BBC weekly radio show he hosts) – has since become a household name on the local airwaves.

This year’s conference will see Prof. Lee  Berger reveal some of the secrets of the Sediba fossils and include a visit to the Planetarium headed by Dr David Block, an Astronomer and Director of the Cosmic Dust Laboratory, School of Computational and Applied Mathematics at the University of Witwatersrand.

This year, frayintermedia is partnering with Wits University to bring together science reporters, journalism students, leading scientists and science communicators to explore science research into the past, present and future. The conference is sponsored by SAASTA and the Ford Foundation.

 A number of bursaries have been made available for journalism and science students, community reporters and freelance journalists as well as science communicators. These will be made available on a first come first served basis. Spaces are filling up quickly, so book early. Bursary application form

Date: 21 & 22 September 2010

Venue: Sturrock Park, Wits University, Johannesburg

Cost: R1 940 (incl VAT)

Info/Bookings: Obakeng Mooke, (011 341 0767) or omooke@frayintermedia.com, to register please fill in attached form and if you are a bursary applicant please send an email to the email address provided.

science conference registration form


Photographs from the 2008 Reporting Science Conference

View photographs of the presenters at the 2008 Reporting Science Conference organised by frayintermedia.


Reporting Science Conference 2008 – Presentation Downloads


The presentations from the 2008 Reporting Science conference are now available for download.

All files are in pdf format. Right click on each link for options to save.

Science and Media – Helping Society to Interpret Science
Dr Bob Scholes, CSIR

Belinda Beresford – Senior health writer/deputy news editor
Swimming in a sea of viral haemorrhagic fevers

Cutting edge advances in nanotechnology
Manfred Scriba, Chief Researcher & leader, CSIR

Climate Change: Science, risk and uncertainty – telling the South African story
Leonie Joubert, science writer & Prof Coleen Vogel, School of Geography, Archaeology & Environmental Studies, Univ. of the Witwatersrand

Ethics in Science Journalism
George Claassen, Department of Journalism, University of Stellenbosch

Alternative Energy – The Science of Miscommunication
Jako Volschenk, Stellenbosch University

Accelerating Renewable Energy Deployment
Dr Thembakazi Mali , Senior Manager: Clean Energy Solutions , SANERI

The new, new,New Journalism: Reporting Adventures in Second Life
Arthur Goldstuck, MD World Wide Worx

Bring science and society closer together says Hanekom at Reporting Science conference

The following text has been sourced from Derek Hanekom’s speaking notes. His actual presentation may have varied.

Opening remarks by the deputy minister of science and technology, the honourable Derek Hanekom, at the frayintermedia 2nd annual Reporting Science conference, Craighall, on 10 November 2008.

Programme director
Members of the media
Representatives of Government and the Science Community
Distinguished Guests and Delegates

Firstly, allow me to express my appreciation to frayintermedia for organising such an important and well-coordinated conference. The nature of government work means that we do not always have the opportunity to interact and have unmediated engagement with the media, except perhaps when we have to respond to questions raised about our efforts.  I am therefore very grateful to share this time with you. I see that the Department of Science and Technology is well represented here, judging from the familiar faces.

Access to knowledge divides us
For hundreds of years it was generally accepted that knowledge belonged to everyone. In the fourth century BC ordinary citizens were able to listen to Plato. During the Napoleonic Wars, when all other exchanges were banned, scientists freely crossed the English Channel to speak at one another’s academies. In the 20th century, the driving engine of innovation became war and the secretive machinery set up to serve military agendas still dominates our innovation processes today.

As we move further into the 21st century, the world is becoming more sharply divided into those with easy access to knowledge and those will little or no access. If, as Francis Bacon said, knowledge is power, this means that there is a growing chasm between those with power and those without. In 2000, Pierre Pettigrew, Canadian Minister for International Trade at the time said that “in the new economy…. victims are not only exploited, they’re excluded. You may be in a situation where you are not needed to create… wealth. This phenomenon of exclusion is far more radical than the phenomenon of exploitation.”

This was said eight years ago. Yet today, every 15 minutes, about 400 children – the same number used by Forbes for its list of the world’s richest people – still die from malnutrition-related diseases. They are also dying from a lack of knowledge. They knowledge to save almost all of them exists, yet for various reasons it does not get through to their communities — at least not in forms the communities can access, afford or use.

Without knowledge things will get worse
Sixteen million hectares of natural forests vanish each year as poor people struggle to feed themselves and multinationals exploit what is left. Three quarters of the world’s fisheries are fully or over-exploited. One third of the world’s farmlands are degraded. Almost three billion people will experience severe water scarcity by 2025. This is due partly to human greed, but also to a large extent to a lack of knowledge of how to farm, fish or use water sustainability. Without knowledge things will get worse – tens of millions more will lost their livelihoods and global instability will skyrocket with conflict over scarce resources.

The number of refugees has doubled in the past and all told, close to 50 million people are currently displaced from their homes and livelihoods. What will the world be like when there are 100 million refugees? Of 120 conflicts worldwide since the Cold War ended in the 1990s, two-thirds were driven or triggered by shortages of food, land and water – crises which for the most part, could have been averted through the application of modern scientific knowledge.

Let us consider science and its relation to disease: Today in Africa alone, millions of HIV-positive people are dying because they do not have access to patented antiretroviral. Every year, about two million people die for want of low-cost antimalarials. These facts prompt questions about the morality of the global innovation system: Who owns it and who does it serve?

A few hundred million of the world’s richest citizens enjoy the fruits of modern science and technology, while more than five billion are denied them or simply unable to access them. They are becoming bitter and resentful. Many are trying to solve the problem by fleeing to the richer countries in a rising tide that neither gunboats nor prison camps can forestall. Once this situation was regarded as largely due to the unequal distribution of wealth, and it was assumed that money could fix it. However, the problem is more profound.

Bring science and society closer together
What it all boils down to, ladies and gentlemen, is our failure to share knowledge with all that this implies – food, water security, health empowerment, sustainability, jobs and sound government. The explosion of knowledge is taking place in the advanced centres of the world and the failure to share this knowledge is tilting the balance of well-being ever more radically towards a priviledged few and away from the vast majority. History shows that such an imbalance is likely to provoke a violent reaction.

The lack of access to knowledge is also increasingly building suspicion of modern science and technology. US Physics professor Juan Roederer speaks of “an alarming erosion of public trust” in science, which is causing many societies and politicians to suspect the motives of the research community, to set in place measures to scrutinise it and even to limit its scope and freedoms. The “crisis of trust” in modern science was also highlighted in the UK House of Lords’ Third Report on Science and Technology which recorded that the British public had great interest but little trust in science. Many communities and groups are starting to protest their exclusion from the scientific and innovation process. While grateful for the lifesaving and life-enhancing benefits of science, ordinary people in western democracies are trying to resist the relentless onward thrust of knowledge and technology, often retreating into superstition and pseudoscience. There is a general questioning, in almost all societies of the morality, ethics, practices, motives, ownership and control of modern science. Conspiracy theories grow in popularity and a general mistrust is threatening to obstruct the progress of science and technology and the many benefits they are able to bring us.

We cannot allow this to continue. The challenge is therefore to bring science and society closer together, to build a “knowledge democracy” in which the community is informed about science and technology and becomes an active participant in decisions to adopt or apply it. We need to replace the outmoded culture of scientific aloofness and superiority with one of openness and consultation. Scientists must come to recognise that people’s values, beliefs traditions and feelings – rooted in millions of years of human evolutionary experience in identifying and avoiding risks – are critical to the successful uptake of scientific knowledge.

Science needs to accept that “scientific knowledge” should not be separated from or elevated above “lay knowledge” which is a necessary element of the innovation process. If lay people are not brought on board the support of society for technological advancement cannot be taken for granted

Knowledge is free but not freely available
Facilitating the “democratisation of science” is the key role of the science communicator. An international seminar on science and society hosted by the British Council last year, proposed that citizens be made active partners and participants in the innovation process and that efforts to promote science, encourage dialogue and transparency, responsibility and accountability, the independence of research and the negotiation of appropriate technological trajectories.

This applies not only to developed democracies, but to the developing world where people urgently need the power of knowledge to improve their quality of life and the sustainability of their resources and to take control of their own destinies. Much of the knowledge they need is free and yet it is not freely available. 

The democratisation of science will ease people’s deeply embedded fears of change and allay concerns about the loss of control or failure of ethical standards. Such democratisation is desirable not merely from a social viewpoint, but also from a scientific one. The ideas and perspectives that non-scientific people and communities can bring to science can contribute to the wider acceptance, adoption and commercialisation of science.

If communities could become partners in the science and innovation processes, instead of remaining uninformed recipients or even opponents of research and technology, we would have a true “knowledge society”. We need dedicated science communicators to make this happen, to bridge the gap between the specialists and the public and help to build a nation that knows and understands enough about science to take its place comfortably in the global knowledge economy. This is the thought I’d like to leave you with.

Deputy Science minister to kick-off dynamic conference


The Deputy Minister for the Department of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hanekom, will open the Reporting Science Conference, taking place on 10-11 November 2008 in Johannesburg.

Bob Scholes  a leader of the ecosystem processes and dynamics research group, and a Fellow of the CSIR will be the keynote speaker at the second Reporting Science Conference which will host a number of local experts in the fields of Nanotechnology, Climate Change, Alternative Energy, Food Security and Astronomy and Space Science.

Science reporting is a research-intensive skill that sets journalists apart and has unlimited potential in the world of news.

The conference will strive to  equip journalists and science communicators with information and skills to analyse and make sense of available scientific information allowing them to report on and communicate from a knowledgeable basis.

A cocktail function will take place at the Observatory on Monday 10th  with a finger supper and Ubom Industrial Theatre performance.  Transport will be provided from the conference venue to the Observatory for all delegates.

For the latest conference programme, click here.

Date: 10 & 11 November 2008
Venue: HackleBrooke Estate, Craighall Park, Johannesburg
Cost: R 1938 (incl VAT)
For more information contact Debby Kramer on 011 341 0767 or email dkramer@frayintermedia.com

Programme for the 2008 Reporting Science Conference


The updated programme for the 2008 Reporting Science Conference is now available for download.

This year’s line-up of speakers promises to deliver a diverse and unique learning experience.

Right click here to save the programme.

Reporting Science Official Cocktail Function


The official Cocktail Function for the 2008 Reporting Science conference will be sponsored by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) and will be held on Day 1 at the Johannesburg Observatory, 15A Gill Str, Observatory, Johannesburg and it promises to be both informative and interactive.

The Cocktail Programme is as follows:

17:30 Official Welcome and Drinks

17:45 Live Performance “Meltdown” by Ubom!

18:30 Keynote address and dinner

The following exhibitions will be available for viewing throughout the evening:
Mirror Maize
SA Science Lens and
In honour of the International Year of Astronomy you will be treated to a very close view of the exquisite Johannesburg sky.

21:00 Closing

Spaces are filling up fast, book early.

SAASTA is a business unit of the NRF

The Reporting Science Conference, 10th – 11th November 2008, will take place at the Hackle Brooke Estate in Craighall, Johannesburg. This year the conference, which will include plenary sessions and small group workshops, will focus on:

  • Climate Change
  • Alternative Energy
  • Food Security
  • Nanotechnology
  • Astronomy and Space Science.

We invite journalists, editors, television and radio presenters and producers, sub-editors, and journalism students who wish to better interpret science information for their audience and science communicators needing to understand how to package stories that interest media.

Science Conference on track

Equipping journalists with effective reporting skills on science will be the focus of frayintermedia’s second Reporting Science Conference.

Themed Making Science Headlines this year’s conference will focus on climate change, alternative energy sources, food security and nanotechnology.

Said organiser Debby Kramer: “Science stories seemingly go untold because of a shortage of well informed and trained science journalists. This conference aims to change that by empowering science reporters with knowledge by giving them access to some of South Africa’s elite scientists both locally and abroad – it is about giving reporters the opportunity to make science headlines.”

Taking place on 10 and 11 November at the Hacklebrooke Estate in Johannesburg, the conference offers reporters the unique opportunity to network with scientists and experts on a variety of topics, whilst improving their skills.

Also on the agenda this year is a trip to a local observatory where the night sky will be viewed.

For more information on the conference contact Debby Kramer on 011 – 341 0767 or on dkramer@frayintermedia.com

2007 Science Conference formula a success

Dr Chris Smith and Diran Onifade

A dearth of science journalists, scientists wary of what they perceive to be ill-informed journalists and incredible local science stories going untold due to language barriers.

These were just some of the factors that spurred on the launch of the first Science Reporting Conference in November 2007.

Initiated by Paula Fray & Associates, the conference aimed to enhance and deepen journalists’ ability to understand science, find stories in the jargon and enhance skills in putting across science in a user-friendly way. The conference also provided an excellent opportunity to for journalists to network with scientists.

Paula Fray and Associates brought out British doctor/virologist, Dr Chris Smith – presenter of The Naked Scientists radio show – as the keynote speaker.

“The Naked Scientists’ basic goal is to help people enjoy science as much as we do and, at the same time, have fun,” says Smith.

He and his media savvy team of physicists and researchers from Cambridge University use radio, live lectures, and the internet to strip science down to its bare essentials and promote it to the general public.

Their award winning BBC weekly radio programme reaches a potential audience of six million listeners and has a large following on the web.

Smith amazed the conference participants with his knack of taking complicated science and making it understandable and simple enough to fascinate the layperson. 

The science reporting conference was aimed at editors, senior reporters, science writers, television and radio presenters, producers, sub-editors and post-graduate journalism students.

A mix of acclaimed practicing science journalists and scientists shared their knowledge and skills with 47 delegates. Present were experts in climatology, HIV/Aids, astronomy and paleontology.

Dr Chris Smith and Diran Onifade

Dr Chris Smith and Diran Onifade

Paula Fray and Associates also hosted Nigerian television journalist, the Vice President of the World Federation of Science Journalists who explained to the delegates how the federation was spreading the passion and skills for science journalism in Africa through its mentoring program.

The conference attracted some of South Africa’s top science journalists. Christina Scottt, Africa news editor of the Science and Development Network news website and a mentor to African science reporters, spoke about how science reporting differs from general news reporting.

Astronomer Case Rijsdijk, astronomer gave a presentation entitled “Why is there no pepper with SALT?” and Deputy Editor and Science Editor of Die Burger George Claassen discussed bridging the divide between scientists and journalists.

Adele Baleta, award-winning science journalist and media trainer, spoke on how to detect pseudo-science.

The conference programme also included the following  speakers:

  • Prof Lee Berger – Head of Palaeontology, Wits University
  • Prof Krishanlal Bharuth-Ram, Executive Director of National Facilities, NRF
  • Prof Eugene Botha – University of SA
  • Hastings Chikoko  Component Manager, Awareness Creation, SADC/DANIDA
  • Rehana Dada – Radio & Television producer & presenter
  • Dr Sumentheran Govender, Clinical Study Manager, Population Council
  • Marina Joubert – Science Communication Trainer
  • Dr Jocelyn Moyes – Director, Research, Microbicides, RHRU, Wits University
  • Frank Schwegler – Group Air Quality Management, Anglo Technical Division
  • Dr Mark Tadross – Snr Research Fellow, Dept of Environmental & Geographical Science, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Francois Venter – Cluster Head, HIV Management Cluster Reproductive Health and HIV Researc Unit, Wits University

Evaluations indicated that every delegate who attended the conference felt they gained valuable skills and would return to their jobs better equipped to tell the stories that needed to be told.

Below are some of the comments from delegates:

  • Very good conference. Should be brought to the attention of SA editors so they appoint science editors;
  • Good balance of topics – leaving having learnt a little more about all the issues discussed;
  •  Content was spot on.
  • Wonderful opportunity to be exposed to other writers out there and to meet foremost scientists and writers;
  • An opportunity to understand the reservations the scientific fraternity might have about the press and to make new contacts;
  • Very educational – please introduce annually
  •  Spread the conference over three days. Would have loved to attend all sessions but had to choose;
  •  On the whole, the conference was excellent. Looking forward to 2008.
Downloads of some of the speakers’ presentations can be accessed here.

Science Conference 2007 Downloads

Some of our speakers presentations from the 2007 Science Conference are available for download.

Right-click on the links below to save.

The Role of Scientists in Science and Media (5mb)

The Nuclear Era: Prof Krish Bharuth-Ram (5.15mb)

Reporting Science Palaeontology: Prof Lee Burger (7.28mb)

Water Issues in the SADC: Hastings Chikoko (2.20mb)