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Three projects to improve science journalism


image: The Spark Grant initiative supports innovation that builds the global community of science journalists.
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Credit: Krista Leroux

Montreal, January 12, 2022 – The Spark Grant Initiative (SGI), under the aegis of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), has selected its first three winning ideas, from South America, Africa and Asia, to improve the science coverage in general media. The SGI, launched and funded by five associations of science journalists in Europe and the United States, will grant each project US$20,000, the first results of which will be presented at the next World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ), in Medellin. , Colombia, end of June 2022.

“The jury was amazed by the high quality of the majority of the submitted proposals. The choice, based on a list of detailed criteria, was difficult to make. We would like to warmly thank all the participating teams for their efforts, and we congratulate the three winners whose projects are very promising,” said Olivier Dessibourg, president of the SGI and president of its jury. The jury of nine experienced science journalists – 5 men and 4 women – reviewed 37 submissions from around the world.

NEPAL, with Chhatra Karki

Climate change with its effects in the Himalayan region is the main topic that 8 science journalists from Nepal, India and Bangladesh will discuss in depth in the bootcamp workshops for science journalists offered by Nepalese science journalist Chatra Karki. Karki has covered news, features and stories on climate change, science and technology, environment, health and education. In recent years, he has been the editor of the online news portal NEPAL NEWS. Mutual learning exercise aims to help journalists inject scientific evidence into their climate reporting, discuss challenges faced by journalists working on climate and devise strategies to overcome them through intense debates and critical reflection. A web-based platform will allow journalists to share their stories, features and commentary on various facets of climate science with each other and with their respective audiences. “This project was considered very interesting because, while being original, it comes from a region that is sometimes overlooked when talking about the needs of science journalism,” Dessibourg said.

TOGO, with Kossi Balao

The proposal to support the Network of Science Journalists of French-speaking Africa (RJSAF) in the organization of the first conference of science journalists in French-speaking Africa, and to launch a platform of French-speaking science journalists, came from the Togolese science journalist Kossi Balao, which has obtained the support of the French Association of Science Journalists in the Information Media (AJSPI), the Swiss Association of Science Journalism (SASJ) and the Quebec Association for Science Communication (ACS). Balao is the founder of The Confidential Report newspaper and a contributor to various media including Scientific African Magazine. He was one of the winners of the United Nations Voices of a Brighter Future journalism competition. The conference aims to enable French-speaking journalists to work on international reporting projects and to organize a prize to reward cross-border reporting. “This conference will put science journalism in French-speaking Africa in the spotlight, and will most likely strengthen the network with the whole of the French-speaking world”, declared the president of the SGI jury.

CHILE, with Lindzi Wessel

The third grant was awarded to Lindzi Wessel, a bilingual science journalist born and raised in the United States and now based in Chile. Wessel has covered a wide range of topics, including the intersection of politics and science and sexual harassment in universities. His stories have appeared in international media, including Science, Nature, and The Washington Post.

With input from science journalists in Chile, including the leadership of WFSJ affiliate, the Chilean Association of Journalists and Professionals for Science Communication (ACHIPEC), Wessel will host a symposium focused on advancing science journalism training there. The symposium, based in Santiago and designed to attract between 150 and 200 people, will also serve as a basis for ongoing actions by documenting expert discussions on best practices, opportunities for universities to provide more training in science journalism and by issuing calls to action aimed at the various stakeholders. . “The Jury felt that this well-structured project met a need in South America, and could contribute to the WFSJ’s efforts to set up regional events and conferences on science journalism under its auspices,” said Dessibourg.

The SGI was originally funded with US$100,000 provided by the Swiss Association for Science Journalism (SASJ), the French Association of Science Journalists in the Information Press (AJSPI) and Science Writers in Italy (SWIM ), who jointly organized WCSJ2019. in Lausanne, Switzerland, as well as the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW), both from the United States, which organized WCSJ2017 in San Francisco. The SGI is operated under the auspices of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ). “The ambitious goal is to strengthen science journalism locally while benefiting the global community. We will present the first results of the funded projects at the World Conference of Science Journalists WCSJ2022 in Medellín, Colombia,” said Milica Momcilovic, president of the WFSJ, member of the jury. A portion of the endowment has been set aside for possible follow-ups and to support a new round of funding.

“Each of these projects represents a tangible legacy of the past two editions of WCSJ,” said the WFSJ Executive Director. Tim Loughed. “And just as these conferences serve to strengthen bonds within our global community, these initiatives will further strengthen bonds within our Member Associations. It has been extremely satisfying to have the opportunity to provide support in such a meaningful way. We want to inspire followers, and we also hope that sponsors will come forward and offer to fund these useful grants over the long term.”


The World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ, www.wcsj.org) is the world’s largest event on science journalism, attracting around 1,200 journalists covering science and medical issues, as well as international experts, scientists and communicators, among others. WCSJ2017 in San Francisco (October 26-30, 2017) and WCSJ2019 in Lausanne (July 1-5, 2019) both attracted over 1,300 attendees. WCSJ2022 Medellin will be hosted at the city’s extraordinary Jardin Botánico de Medellín venue from June 27 to July 1, 2022, with a virtual experience beginning June 13.

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