Title – Science, Technology & Modern Society: Role of Communication in Achieving Sustainable Livelihood.
I feel honored to be part of this event. Science and technology are essential for our well being and they are drivers of change. We enjoy the benefits of scientific and technological innovations every day. It is also well known that science and technology provides most innovative and sustainable jobs available anywhere in the world today.
However, we see increasingly in our society that there is a problem with how certain innovations are perceived. Among certain portions of the general public, there is mistrust and even fear of science and technology, and there are many possible explanations for this. Some argue that there is a communication gap between scientists and society owing to the inability of some scientists to communicate in plain language. Others have said that public ignorance and misunderstanding is to blame for this negative attitude.
The mistrust and fear of science and technology can become a serious problem especially when it begins to influence how quickly a technology is adopted to solve local problems and drive national development. The controversy surrounding modern biotechnology, GMOs and biosafety in particular, is an example of how the gap between scientific findings, and public opinions and attitudes can threaten new technological innovations.
Issues like these are precisely why good scientific communication is important. The media is a powerful tool which we must use to take Nigeria from being a net consumer of the products of scientific innovations to being a pioneer in various scientific and technological fields.
Good science journalism is first and foremost evidence-based. It is factual, solution-based, and cues into global trends and international best practices in the field of science reporting. It does not peddle sensationalism, conspiracy theories, half-baked data from unverified sources or uncorroborated statements as facts. These are the things that muddle up the public debate on science and technology in Nigeria. Good science journalism should help to build the consciousness of the people and educate them on the truth about certain controversial scientific and technological innovations.
Today, there are quite a large number of research institutes across the country with over 100 universities, researching into various areas of our national lives. Unfortunately, as many of our scientists lament, all this research ends up on the shelves of libraries and offices while the issues those researches should address continue to confront us in society. My challenge to Science Café Nigeria is to be a voice for safe science in Nigeria.
Communicating science is a vital ingredient for development. Safe Science is a foundation for national development and if this foundation is not properly communicated, the nation may not reap the desired benefits. Communicating safe science appropriately will make Nigerians understand and appreciate the role science can play in their daily lives especially in agricultural development and industrial growth. It will also inspire our youth to boldly enter various fields of scientific study.
Consider the case of modern biotechnology and its products. Sadly, some activists have taken to misinforming and misrepresenting issues, and inciting the people against government agencies like the NBMA. NBMA is here to protect the health of Nigerians and the environment and not a promoter of modern biotechnology or GMOs.
Nigeria decided 17 years ago to deploy modern biotechnology as a tool for improving agriculture by the establishment of National Biotechnology Development Agency(NABDA). NBMA was established by the government in 2015 to regulate the practice of this technology especially as it pertains to GMOs. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are a product of modern biotechnology. Genetic Modification has been controversial since it was first used over 2 decades ago. The National Biosafety Management Agency was established to tackle the risks that may be associated with this technology.
The Agency has taken it upon itself to educate the public and the media on its regulatory function on the practice of modern biotechnology in Nigeria. We have created a robust and interactive website (www.nbma.gov.ng) and we are active on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Through these platforms, we provide evidence-based information to the public about biosafety. We are also planning to train journalists on this issue in partnership with the café.
Beyond our public enlightenment programmes, the NBMA has the personnel, tools and legal backing to carry out its regulatory function of ensuring the safe practice of Modern Biotechnology in Nigeria, and the safety of its products such as GMOs. Nigerians should be rest assured that the NBMA is determined to fulfil its mandate of safeguarding their health and environment. The NBMA works in partnership with other line ministries, departments and Agencies, Non-Governmental organizations, Youth, women and Farmers’ associations, and the international community in line with UN conventions to protect the environment.
The bottom line is that Nigeria has the facilities and personnel to properly regulate modern biotechnology. But we need your cooperation. It is your responsibility as journalists and communicators to ensure that through this platform, science can be better understood and exploited for national development and sustainable livelihood.
It is my hope that with the launch of Science Café Nigeria, you will teach people about safe science and technology, and reorient the public. The National Biosafety Management Agency is always ready to appear on this platform to support your effort to promote sustainable livelihood through better understanding and use of safe science and technology.