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Communicating Science

15

Ghana

When individuals refuse to let science communication die

Hephzi Angela Tagoe and Thomas Amatey Tagoe

Ghana prides itself in being identified as the gateway to West Africa. This tag line applies because Ghana was the first African country to gain independence, in 1957, paving the way for others to follow. Within a decade of Ghana’s independence, over 30 other African countries were inspired to follow suit (Bourret, 1960). Since then, Ghana has continued to exhibit one of the strongest and longest-lasting democracies on the continent, making room for the country to explore and grow in many ways.

Prior to independence, Ghana was known as the Gold Coast, a name coined by the Europeans as a nod to the country’s rich natural gold resources. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive on the Gold Coast in 1471, and by 1492 they had built a fortress along the coastal town of Elmina. The Dutch, Danes and British subsequently became the main traders in the Gold Coast, with the trading commodities shifting from gold to human slavery by the 17th century. By 1874, the country had become solely a British colony (Reynolds, 1984). Gold remains one of Ghana’s richest resources, along with cocoa.

Geographically, Ghana is positioned to allow easy access to all other West African countries by land, sea or air. It is home to one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, Lake Volta, which has a surface area of 8,500 square kilometres. Ghana has chalked up many firsts in areas ranging from democratic governance to sports and innovation. For example, Ghana was the first African country to win both the FIFA under-17 and under-20 world cup tournaments. The country’s most famous footballer, Abedi Pele, is regarded as one of Africa’s best footballers of all time, paving the way for African footballers to play in Europe (BBC, 2019). The country also prides itself in giving the world Kofi Annan, the first black African to hold the office of Secretary General of the United Nations.

Sixty years after independence, Ghana has once again set a precedent, this time in science communication. Ghana is home to the only planetarium in West Africa, as well as the first organisation focused on science communication as a means of building capacity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) within the region. The country is also home to a STEM communication network with over more than 100 active members, a STEM-based show on morning radio, a national science and mathematics quiz that garners as much attention as the FIFA world cup and a hot air balloon as a tool for scientific outreach. Interestingly, many of the individuals spearheading these projects spent a significant part of their academic or professional lives in the UK and draw from best practices in the UK. Dr Jacob Ashong worked in the UK for many years before returning to Ghana to set up the planetarium. GhScientific was founded by a sibling duo (Drs Thomas Amatey Tagoe and Hephzi Angela Tagoe), who both studied and worked extensively in the UK before returning to lead the work of science communication in Ghana.

The question to ask is: How did Ghana get to this position? Science communication in Ghana has historically experienced a bias towards health and technology. Despite this approach, science communication has continued to grow. To fully appreciate how the field has evolved within an unbalanced environment, it is important to go back to pre-colonial Ghana. The foundations of who Ghanaians are as a people is key to appreciate how we arrived at the current state of modern science communication.

Figure 15.1

Figure 15.1: First meeting of the Ghana STEM Network.

Source: GhScientific.

1. Evidence of science communication in Ghana pre-independence

What was to become known as Ghana is an area home to 100 different ethnic groups with over 44 distinct languages, not counting dialects. Many ethnic groups belong to larger groups and as such share some common cultural practices and traditions. One commonality is the use of folklore as a means of science communication. Storytelling over burning firewood at sunset was common practice for imparting knowledge (Gyekye, 1996). Although the information that came through the stories has been passed on as myths, modern research has been known to demonstrate the scientific basis of these supposed myths. For example, natural conservation has been historically practised in the country through ‘taboos’, imposing closed seasons for hunters and fishermen as well as maintaining sections of forests as off-limits to the public (Acheampong, 2010). The benefits of these ‘taboos’ to the ecosystem are only now being appreciated and reinstated.

Folklore as a form of science communication told stories on innovation and problem-solving often using a cunning character by the name of ‘Kweku Ananse’. Today, Kweku Ananse is an educative tool for communicating science, and his famous stories have been incorporated into a gamified learning app called ‘Ananse the Teacher’, downloadable in the iTunes app store. It is also available in the Google Playstore, where it has had over 1,000 downloads as at January 2019. The app infuses culture with technology, delivering lessons relevant to STEM and reaching younger audiences through new tools based on a familiar concept rooted in culture. Since its introduction, ‘Ananse the Teacher’ has proven to be a popular outreach tool for engaging younger audiences.

With a rich oral tradition, it is no surprise that radio remains one of the most penetrative modes of communication since its introduction in the Gold Coast in 1935. Today, over 46 radio stations can be heard in the capital city Accra, a significant proportion of which have a program relating to health, sharing information related to healthy living and disease control (NCA, 2016). The first station to have a science communication show as we now understand it was one of the state-owned radio stations. In 2014, Uniq FM launched a show touching on all manner of science and the way it relates to everyday life. It was only in 2018 that this type of programming hit primetime morning radio, with the Ghana Science Association launching The Horizon, an hour-long segment on one of the nation’s leading radio stations, StarrFM.

The introduction of radio in 1935 was followed by television in 1965. It was not until the late 1990s that Ghana’s airwaves were liberalised from the control of the post-colonial state with print media also being liberalised in 1992 (Anokwa, 1997). Now, just as with radio, every TV station and print house has a dedicated segment focused on communicating health-related matters, often at the expense of other sciences.

In anticipation of this liberalisation, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, laid down the foundation for training communicators through the establishment of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) in 1962. The GIJ is the first institution for training journalists in Africa and is the leading institution of its kind in Ghana.

Over the last few years, it has become evident that there is an increased demand for journalists with the ability to work collaboratively with scientists for the purposes of science communication. As such the GIJ is collaborating with the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana and the Science and Technology Communicators of Ghana to introduce a short course in science journalism. This move is undoubtedly in line with the ideals of Dr Nkrumah, the visionary who set up GIJ in the first place (Reporters without Borders, 2019).

1.1. Case study: The Horizon

The Horizon is an hour-long segment on morning radio where professionals and enthusiasts discuss their areas of expertise within STEM. Hosted by Francis Abban on Wednesdays, the show has been airing since November 2017 on StarrFM (103.5 MHz), which boasts the 7th most popular breakfast show (6am – 10am) on morning radio (Botchway, 2019). The Horizon launched when the producer of the breakfast show, Alex Mensah, approached the Ghana Science Association (GSA) to discuss the possibility of a partnership to host a STEM-themed segment as part of the morning show. This meeting took place at a time when GSA was under new leadership and on the lookout for alternative avenues to engage with the public. A series of fortunate coincidences led to the first episode of The Horizon on 1 November 2017.

Figure 15.2

Figure 15.2: Advertising sample on The Horizon radio show.

Source: GhScientific.

The show is divided into three segments: top science news, fun science facts and the STEM conversation. The first segment, Top Science News, shares three of the most significant findings in the world of science during the prior week, both nationally and internationally. The Fun Science Fact shares unique scientific facts that may not be common knowledge and leads into the main STEM conversation segment. In the STEM conversation segment, the host of the morning radio show interviews invited guests to shed light on their life and work. Guests on the show range from young high school innovators to established professors who are world renowned as experts in their field. Listeners of the show can phone in and ask questions. In addition, the show is broadcast live on Facebook with regular updates on Twitter, ensuring that a social media audience is engaged. Indeed, The Horizon is working to democratise scientific knowledge by taking advantage of technology to tap into the oral tradition of communication so pervasive across the country.

2. Dr Kwame Nkrumah the visionary

In the 1940s and early 1950s, in the Gold Coast, as Ghana was known then, a movement for decolonisation was building, triggered by increasing demand by the natives for more autonomy. The country saw the first attempt at a nationalist party, the leadership of which included Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who subsequently became Ghana’s first president in 1957 (Lupalo, 2016).

Nkrumah was a visionary who saw value in the application of science and engineering for national development. From extensive plans for industrialisation to building one of the largest man-made lakes at the time for the purpose of generating hydroelectric power, he considered science and technology as critical. His position on the matter was clearly communicated in his speech to the first conference of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) when the OAU was formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 25 May 1963 (Lupalo, 2016):

We shall accumulate machinery and establish steel works, iron foundries and factories; we shall link the various States of our continent with communications; we shall astound the world with our hydroelectric power; we shall drain marshes and swamps, clear infested areas, feed the under-nourished, and rid our people of parasites and disease. It is within the possibility of science and technology to make even the Sahara bloom into a vast field with verdant vegetation for agricultural and industrial developments. We shall harness the radio, television, giant printing presses to lift our people from the dark recesses of illiteracy.

A decade ago, these would have been visionary words, the fantasies of an idle dreamer. But this is the age in which science has transcended the limits of the material world, and technology has invaded the silences of nature. Time and space have been reduced to unimportant abstractions. Giant machines make roads, clear forests, dig dams, lay out aerodromes; monster trucks and planes distribute goods; huge laboratories manufacture drugs; complicated geological surveys are made; mighty power stations are built; colossal factories erected—all at an incredible speed. The world is no longer moving through bush paths or on camels and donkeys.

Nkrumah set the precedent for science communication across the country. During his presidency, he oversaw the inauguration of two scientific bodies with science communication at the heart of their mission: the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) as the highest body of scientists influencing policy; and the GSA to be an umbrella body of scientists promoting and popularising science for national development.

GAAS was founded in 1959 with the aim of promoting the pursuit, advancement and dissemination of knowledge in all branches of the sciences and the humanities. It hosted regular public lectures where it facilitated the attendance of young students. GAAS is represented on presidential advisory boards. Recently it established relationships with the Ghana Young Academy, part of the Global Young Academy linking young scientists with promising futures.

GSA is a large national, multidisciplinary association of scientists, technologists and mathematicians that provides the scientific community the broad opportunity to share their knowledge of science. The work of GSA has inspired the formation of other professional associations of scientists to better meet the needs of professionals and citizens. The inauguration of GSA in 1959 offered Ghana a broad scope of activities, from reading of scientific papers to involvement in national and international affairs. The very first international conference hosted by GSA was held in Accra in 1961 under the theme ‘The World Without the Bomb’. Since then, GSA has been mandated to promote, popularise and demystify science to create a scientific culture in the country.

2.1. Case study: Professor Frederick Addai

Professor Frederick Addai is the immediate past head of the Anatomy Department at the University of Ghana. He has held many prestigious positions within and outside of academia, including national president of the GSA. Throughout his career, there have been many accomplishments, with the most noteworthy being his work highlighting the benefits of natural cocoa for healthy living.

It all started in 1991, during a Wellcome Trust Fellowship in the UK, when his curiosity was triggered by a Wrigley’s Gum advertisement about its effect on teeth mineralisation. Upon his return to Ghana, Professor Addai explored how chocolate could elicit similar responses, and his research came to a head in a 2002 publication ‘Responses of saliva pH to ingestion of Golden Tree chocolate and the effect of stick chewing’ (Addai et al., 2002). The contents of this paper formed the basis of a public lecture in 2004 at the British Council Auditorium in Accra. In attendance at this public lecture were senior members of government who were intrigued at the proposed health benefits of natural cocoa. They were perplexed why such research had never been explored, particularly because Ghana is the world leading producer of cocoa.

Over the next year, what started out as a curiosity-driven question led to presentations at high-level cabinet meetings and the launch of an advocacy program to enhance cocoa consumption in Ghana. Addai’s research kept revealing health benefits of natural cocoa consumption and a series of consistent science communication activities finally led to the declaration of a National Chocolate Day in 2007, which is celebrated yearly on 14 February.

Addai is a perfect example of how science communication can yield results, influencing policy and changing lives.

3. Universities and science communication

Ghana has 212 tertiary educational institutions, of which 10 are recognised as traditional public universities offering the full complement of STEM courses and active research. In addition to the universities, there is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has eight arms with varying areas of research focus including the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute, Food Research Institute and Water Research Institute. Despite what is a strong culture of research, the communication of findings has struggled to go beyond academic journals and conferences. Media engagements are sparse, possibly because of the unbalanced demand for stories related to health and technology. Nonetheless, many professionals make themselves available for interviews on current matters of public interest. Indeed, there is no shortage of these scientists because such activities are considered ‘public service’, which is taken into consideration when academics apply for promotion in the public universities (University of Ghana, 2019). Incentivising scientists has always been a great way to promote science communication all over the world, and in that respect Ghana is no different.

Dr Patrick Kobina Arthur, a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana recalls how his colleagues over the years have taken a passive approach to science communication. All the institutions he has worked for have had an office of public affairs, but these offices typically do not encourage faculty to engage in science communication. To him, science communication within the universities has been dependent on an intrinsic desire of the scientists in question, independent of what the university policy may be on communication.

Recently the University of Ghana has taken the lead in promoting science communication by setting up an Office of Research Innovation and Development (ORID). Two of the working teams of ORID are engaged in science communication: the Technology Transfer Team, which communicates with industry; and the Publication, Dissemination, and Translation Team, which is exploring how to encourage science communication to the public. The model employed by ORID is being replicated at other public universities including the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, which has set up the Office of Grants and Research. In addition to ORID, the University of Ghana is also home to a unit that has become the bastion of modern science communication within the Ghanaian setting of academia, the West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP).

3.1. Case study: WACCBIP

WACCBIP is an Academic Centre of Excellence created by the Biochemistry Department of the University of Ghana. Set up in 2014 with funding from the World Bank and under the leadership of Professor Gordon Awandare, the centre has over the years distinguished itself in the area of research and science communication.

Fellows and postgraduate students at the centre are actively encouraged to engage in science communication activities, and it is even required of MPhil students who are on a sponsored program. It helps that the director, Professor Awandare, can often be seen on media platforms communicating the vital work that goes on at the WACCBIP. This has fuelled a culture of science communication within the centre.

WACCBIP is currently the only research unit in the country with a dedicated public engagement officer. Her name is Kyerewaa Boateng and she works to identify and create opportunities for the researchers and students within WACCBIP to communicate their work. During her time with WACCBIP, she has observed an increase in the interest of faculty and students to partake in science communication activities:

Organising public engagement activities can be difficult and sometimes finances are limiting but faculty always find it exciting to share their work. I enjoy what I do and I think that every department should have a public engagement officer, the scientists and the public appreciate my work.1

Kyerewaa explains that on average the unit undertakes two public engagement activities every week, about 60 per cent involving media engagements and 40 per cent in-person community engagements. By making science communication an active part of its postgraduate training, WACCBIP is creating a future generation of researchers who have the skills and experience to engage in science communication. This is something that will undoubtedly influence the culture at institutions they will join in the future.

Figure 15.3

Figure 15.3: Students of WACCBIP engaging with a school audience.

Source: GhScientific.

4. Media and science

The skew of science communication in media (print, TV, and radio) leans heavily towards healthy living and neglected tropical diseases. One can theorise that the extensive intervention programs financed by donor agencies during the 20th century to educate the population would have created a bias that persists to this day. The large amount of funds made available for these programs and the need to use mass communication have made health-related science communication prominent across all media channels in comparison to other aspects of science.

Two aspects of journalism demonstrate this skew in science communication: training and recognition. In respect to training, journalists at the GIJ undertake many courses as part of their syllabus. Although there is no course on science communication per se, there are two related courses: health communication and environmental journalism. Both courses reflect the skew towards health. Then there are the Ghana Journalism Awards, which recognise the achievements of journalists over the course of a year. Among the winning categories are ‘Environment’, ‘Health’ and ‘Sanitation and Hygiene’. It was not until 2017 that a new category ‘Science’ was added. The growing need for journalists skilled in science communication is clearly not lost on journalists.

4.1. Case study: GhScientific

In January 2014, shortly after graduating with a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Leicester, Dr Thomas Amatey Tagoe was preparing to return to his home country Ghana. He found himself lamenting the lack of scientific information on the internet that could give insight into what the scientific community in Ghana looked like. His sister, Hephzi Angela Tagoe, then a PhD candidate at University College London, mooted the idea to create an organisation that would fill the gap identified.

In September 2014, the duo started GhScientific as a science communication hub in Ghana, the first of its kind. Over the next four years, GhScientific executed 21 science communication and public engagement projects directly engaging with people ranging from primary school students to professionals and members of the public. The most significant of these projects has been a three-day science communication workshop that brought together 24 professionals from 13 institutions across Ghana and Nigeria. In September 2018, GhScientific announced a project to document the evolution of medical research over a 60-year period starting from the date Ghana gained independence (1957). The findings are to be captured using various forms of art and the final collection will be taken on a tour around the country in late 2020 (Daily Guide Africa, 2018).

Figure 15.4

Figure 15.4: Early career researchers out on community engagement as part of a three-day science communication training workshop.

Source: GhScientific.

Since its inception, GhScientific has maintained a steady online presence with a growing following across all social media channels. It continues to serve its audience with STEM-related news, events, opportunities and informative blogs. One of the video features produced by GhScientific in support of the Planetarium Science Centre Ghana caught the attention of Dev Varyani, founder and chairman of Resources For Africa (YouTube, 2017). This led to a significant donation in support of the Planetarium Science Centre Ghana, allowing it to keep its doors open (My Joy Online, 2018).

4.2. Science and technology communicators of Ghana

Back in 2013, five experienced journalists from different media houses got together to form what is now the Science and Technology Communicators of Ghana (STCG). The founding members had been involved in reporting science news for large parts of their careers, and have seen the challenges of presenting science accurately. Coming together to start an association was the next logical step to address this challenge and build capacity in other journalists to effectively communicate science. One of the founding members, Mrs Linda Asante-Adjei reflected on the success and challenges faced:

We started off with five seasoned professionals and now we have 20 members and counting. We have been able to run a series of workshops as well as join the African Federation of Science Journalists. Clearly there is work to be done and now we are looking to roll out quarterly newsletters updating members of parliament about matters of scientific relevance in their various constituencies.2

All this is against a backdrop of a need recognised by experienced journalists. Now the STCG is regularly called upon by the CSIR to assist in the dissemination of research findings. This approach removes the apprehension faced by both parties about inaccuracies that often plague media reports of science when inexperienced journalists are involved.

With the proliferation of media houses across the country and the widening influence of social media, the need for more capacity building has been recognised. The STCG is therefore working with Department of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana and the GIJ to introduce a science communication course to be run by the GIJ. It was to start in the 2019–20 academic year but has been postponed until 2020–21. They are also in partnership with the Medical Communicators Society of Ghana, a collection of health professionals with an interest in engaging in science communication. As the African proverb goes: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’

5. Ghana STEM Centres

At an international mathematics conference in January 2018, the Minister of Education announced plans for the government to open 10 STEM centres across the country. The first STEM centres in the country were established in 1990 as a hub where secondary schools could undertake practical science to supplement the theoretical curriculum. The facilities were referred to as ‘science resource centres’. Unfortunately, these were not maintained and soon become empty buildings and remain out of commission. Almost 20 years later, the government has announced plans to bring the abandoned science resource centres back to life. The recent announcement to open STEM centres across the country is laudable, but only time will tell what impact these will have on the STEM education landscape if the promise is fulfilled. Until then the Ghana Planetarium remains the main public STEM centre in the country.

6. Individuals with a passion for science

Having discussed the evolution of science communication in structured institutions (government, universities, associations and media), we will now explore the growth of individuals spearheading a range of activities from community-based initiatives to self-financing the only planetarium in West Africa. Individuals have become integral to science communication within Ghana.

The current state of science communication in Ghana can be traced back to institutional interventions initiated by Nkrumah as the first president of the country. From universities to associations and training institutes for journalism, his contributions cannot be ignored. The most important of all his contributions must be his unwavering belief that science and technology held the key to rapid national development to raise the quality of life for all citizens. Generations later, this passion for science is one that is shared by many.

6.1. Case study: The Ghana STEM Network and Africa Science Week

In 2015, four science enthusiasts working independently in science communication and capacity building got together to discuss the need to create a collaborative platform to support each other’s work. The four were Dr Connie Chow, Dr Thomas Amatey Tagoe, Miracule Gavor and Gameli Adzaho, and together they created what came to be known as the Ghana STEM Network. The size and influence of the network has slowly grown to include more than 100 individuals and organisations working within the STEM space to collaborate, share, lobby and influence policy.

The true benefit of the Ghana STEM Network would be realised in September 2018 during the maiden Africa Science Week – Ghana celebrations. The Africa Science Week – Ghana is an initiative of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and the Next Einstein Forum (NEF). This celebration across 33 African countries was the second Africa Science Week and the first time that Ghana had participated. At the time, Lucy Quist, the President of AIMS Ghana said: ‘This celebration presents our country with a unique opportunity to elevate the conversation, drive greater participation and celebrate individuals and organisations in STEM in Ghana’ (Quist, 2018).

The week-long celebration from 25–29 September leveraged the members of the Ghana STEM Network to ensure that public engagement and science communication activities took place all over the country. There were radio and TV shows, a STEM activity day in schools, a hackathon, a coding camp and a public lecture with many exhibitions. The week was considered a huge success by all involved, and it was evident that this collaborative approach to celebrating Africa Science Week in Ghana was here to stay.

Over the last decade, many individuals have played leading roles in promoting science communication at both the local and national levels. These individuals are convinced that science and technology holds the key to sustainable national development and that a scientifically literate population will raise the quality of life for all. Notable individuals include:

  • Freda Yawson, founder of Innovate Ghana. Innovate Ghana runs an annual high school innovation challenge where teams develop products and solutions towards national development. Teams communicate their designs to an audience and a judging panel. The process is heavy on people-centred design, and teams are required to engage with the public for whom their designed solutions are targeted.
  • Gameli Adzaho is founder of Global Lab Ghana, Ghana’s main STEM organisation with a focus on citizen science and building a community around its activities. Global Lab particularly focuses on air quality and open science, spearheading the organisation of the first Africa Open Science and Hardware summit, which was held in Kumasi, Ghana, in 2018. Since then, Global Lab has been organising science cafés, an informal gathering of interested persons to discuss various STEM issues.
  • Dr Hephzi Angela Tagoe and Dr Thomas Tagoe are founders of GhScientific, currently Ghana’s premier science communication network, running with the tag ‘From the bench to the community’. GhScientific works with schools and the public to communicate various aspects of science and provides training for researchers on science communication skills. With a pool of freelance journalists, their online portal is able to focus on STEM-related news and opportunities.
  • Kelvin Odonkor is founder of Ghana Health Nest. A nurse and photographer, he has changed the face of nursing and health care across the country by communicating news from the health sectors in real time. He documents health matters through photography and each image is accompanied by a story that lay audiences can comprehend.
  • Issac Sesi is founder of Nsesa Foundation, which engages high school students with science through an intensive three-week program after which they pitch final projects for a prize. They also run a campaign—STEM WOW—celebrating women in STEM and spotlighting their career accomplishments via social media channels. This collection of stories was launched as a book series (STEM WOW Chronicles) in January 2019 to increase accessibility and reach parts of the country where internet penetration is poor (STEM WOW Chronicles, 2018).
  • Triump Tetteh is founder of Starters Tech, a technology company that provides STEM education services for schools, communities and homes. Starters Tech is behind a new series of STEM-based story books, weaving scientific knowledge into gripping stories for young audiences. The aptly named ‘Next Gen Stories’ was launched in March 2019 to inspire the next generation of scientists.
  • Larisa Akrofie is founder of Levers in Heels, which promotes women in STEM by highlighting personalities across all levels of their career via social media channels. Levers in Heels runs features on women in STEM and provides an online platform for scientists to share their work with a non-academic audience.
  • Charles Amegamashie is founder of WeGoInnovate, which seeks to use the power of media to capture the nation’s imagination in STEM. WeGoInnovate has collaborated with scientists to release animated one-minute videos sharing fun science facts for TV. In September 2018, they launched a national competition on TV that relies on sharing videos of high school students designing and executing exciting science experiments.
  • Philip Ashon and CitiTrends: Philip is the host of CitiTrends on CitiFM, the longest running technology-focused radio show. With news, reviews and engaging interviews, Philip ensures that tech enthusiasts across the country are kept up to date on happenings both at home and abroad. The show also provides handy technology tips for the less technology-savvy audiences.
  • Dr Jacob Ashong and the Planetarium Science Centre are worthy of the most recognition. The planetarium is the dream project of Ashong and his wife Jane Ashong, who used their life savings to build the planetarium in 2008. It continues to be the only one in West Africa. Their focus is to bring astronomy closer to the masses and promote practical STEM learning through initiatives such as planetarium shows, live astronomy telescope viewings and STEM learning workshops for school students.

Modern science communication in Ghana can be described as a young but integrated space where all players are working collaboratively to increase capacity while reaching a large audience to increase scientific literacy across the country. The tools are diverse, taking advantage of existing cultural traditions and applying technology where it best serves its purpose.

As science communication increasingly becomes a global requirement of researchers, it is encouraging to see science communication also growing among PhD students and postgraduates. This pool of young people share the desire and commitment to communicate science to a wider non-expert audience. Although the current government has pledged to commit 1 per cent of the country’s GDP towards promoting all aspects of scientific research, including science communication, this is yet to be realised and it may take another decade for the government to put in place systems and structures that reflect this level of verbal commitment. To accelerate this process, collaborations among this new generation of science communicators and established organisations/associations must create the critical mass needed to effectively lobby for such changes. Indeed, such steps are necessary to avoid the dangers of ‘burnout’ typical when talented individuals pursue their ambitions in silos.

One of the major hurdles faced by organisations within the science communication space continues to be funding, and many have to rely on international grants, personal funds or charging a small fee for their projects. The latter limits the reach of the science due to economic hardships while the former caps the potential for growth. This is the same challenge faced by young innovators who develop prototypes of clever practical inventions but are unable to transition into production, scale and market. In the past, their achievements were only celebrated by peers, but now the media gets involved in communicating their feats of brilliance. Nonetheless, the financial and structural support to scale it up and, by so doing, to provide more jobs in the science sector remains a challenge. Publications and interviews that follow these inventions and discoveries do serve as a form of science communication and contribute to raising the level of science literacy across the country. Such actions will, in the long run, encourage the willingness of individuals and corporations to invest in scientific innovation, increasing the success rates.

The future of science communication is a promising one as Ghana collectively moves towards becoming a country beyond aid. The vision of the first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, has never been more important. Science and technology holds the key to national development, but all this is meaningless if it is never communicated to the masses.

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STEM WOW Chronicles. (2018). Nsesa Foundation, published by Heturo Company. Retrieved from online.fliphtml5.com/hoawo/acck/.

University of Ghana. (2019). Amendments to the statutes of the University of Ghana/. Retrieved from www.ug.edu.gh/sites/default/files/documents/UG_AMENDMENTS_0.pdf.

YouTube. (2017). GhScientific at the Ghana Planetarium. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih2Nz2HpZgk.

Timeline

Event

Name

Date

Comment

First interactive science centre established.

The Ghana Planetarium

2008

Still the only planetarium in West Africa

First national science festival.

African Science Week

2018

An initiative of the Next Einstein Forum

First association of science writers, journalists or communicators established.

Science and Technology Communicators

of Ghana (STCG)

2013

Formed by five journalists from different media houses

First university courses to train science communicators.

Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ)

2019

GIJ has included a science communication module since September 2019

National government program to support science communication established.

1959

The Ghana Science Association has science communication as part of its mandate

First significant initiative in science communication.

2014

GhScientific is Ghana’s first dedicated science communication organisation

First collaborative network of science communicators.

Science and Technology Communicators of Ghana. STCG is made up purely of journalists

2013

2015: The Ghana STEM network formed. This first collaborative network of science communicators is broader and more encompassing than STCG

National Science Week founded.

African Science Week

2018

First significant radio programs on science.

Uniq FM

2014

Hosts a science radio show focused on STEM

First awards for scientists or journalists or others for science communication.

Ghana Journalism Awards

2017

The first category for science reporting was included in 2017

Other significant events.

1959

The first professional association for scientists established

Museum of Science and Technology

1965

Established 1965

National Science and Maths Quiz

1993

Ongoing and embraced by the nation

Public Engagement Officer appointed at WACCBIP

2014

The West African Cell Centre for Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP)

The National Science and Math Quiz introduces a science fair component

2015

Includes mentoring from scientists

Global Lab Café Scientifique, a first

2018

Organised by Global Lab Ghana on artificial intelligence

Science Slam Ghana

2019

Hosted by the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences

Contributors

Dr Hephzi Angela Tagoe is the founding director of GhScientific, a non-government organisation in Ghana focusing on science communication and public engagement and aiming to build capacity in STEM. She is a freelance science writer and runs an education consultancy.

Dr Thomas Amatey Tagoe is a neuroscientist at the University of Ghana and co-founder of GhScientific, an organisation building capacity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through public engagement and outreach activities.


1 Kyerewaa Boateng, personal communication to Thomas Tagoe, 12 March 2018.

2 Linda Asante-Adjei, personal communication to Thomas Tagoe, 8 October 2018.


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