PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Science communication and development

David Spurgeon   Mont Tremblant, Québec, Canada

Science communicators in developing country mass media face many problems not faced by their colleagues in the West. Illiteracy rates in Third World countries are much higher than in the West, and the level of science literacy may be even lower. Some local languages do not contain terminology suited to science communication, and the world views of traditional cultures may be ill-adapted to a scientific understanding of natural phenomena.

Furthermore, the role of science communicators is sometimes seen differently in the Third World from the way it is seen in developed country democracies. The underlying ethic of the mass media in the West is the ideal of a free press objectively viewing events and informing the public without fear or favor. The news reporter is supposed to be detached, accurate and impartial. Although this approach to news coverage has in recent years been abandoned by some, the fundamental principle is still overwhelmingly subscribed to in developed country media.

The same is not necessarily true in developing countries. There the press often is seen as having a duty to take part in the development process–hence the term “development journalism”. In this view, the journalist is seen not as a neutral observer but as an active participant in the development process. Thus the press may in effect become part of the government’s development programs. This raises questions about press independence and function. The science communicator will face such issues because science and technology are powerful development tools.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.