Promoting Science Communication

By Teresiah Mukera, Communications Officer, Aga Khan University

The Aga Khan University Institute for Human Development, through the UZIMA-DS hub, held a three-day Health Communication and Policy Engagement training for researchers and scientists. The training, conducted in collaboration with the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC), sought to empower the scientists to effectively communicate complex scientific data to audiences across various platforms and to influence communities and policy makers.

While the research undertaken by scientists is crucial, it becomes impactful when it reaches the right audience and stakeholders who can benefit from the studies and bring policy changes. The training provided the scientists with a better understanding of the media landscape in Kenya and how they can leverage on existing media platforms to increase their research visibility   to a wider audience.

UZIMA-DS aims to use Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning methodologies to develop predictive models to identify key risk factors for poor mental health and Maternal, Neonatal & Child Health.  These predictive models are only useful if they can influence policy and practice. As a hub, we are very keen to empower our scientists towards communicating their work for impact,” said IHD Director, Professor Amina Abubakar.

Professor Nancy Booker, Dean at GSMC, emphasized the significance of training scientists on how to use the media to communicate their work to a wider audience. She said, “Digital media uptake has been fuelled by mobile phone penetration, technology, and internet access. Scientists and researchers need to embrace and learn how to use digital media to communicate health data.”

The participants gained a wide range of skills, including writing policy briefs, producing podcasts, crafting articles for various media outlets, and engaging in media interviews.

Chris Orwa, a data scientist, provided very instrumental skills on how researchers can disseminate health data through colourful and simple visuals that their audience can understand. Orwa also discussed the significance of using data to inform policy making initiatives.

The participants also learnt the significance of collaborating with journalists to feature their research work and to tell memorable stories that bring public awareness on their research findings.

“The training has been inspirational. We have been able to learn from professionals experienced as journalists and researchers. We have gained so much knowledge especially on how as researchers, we can increase our visibility by working with journalists to share our research outputs,” said Peris Musitia, UZIMA project manager.

Cognisant of the challenges that come with crisis communication, participants were also sensitized on the ethics to consider when communicating health research data and how to communicate in times of crises.

UtiliZe health Information for Meaningful impact in East Africa through Data Science (UZIMA-DS) Hub aims at improving health outcomes for at-risk mothers and children as well as improving mental health outcomes for at-risk adolescents and young adults in Kenya using data science and Artificial intelligence. The project is funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).