Go back to article: Science communication in Latin America: what is going on?

Science communication and radio

In the case of Brazil, for example, it could be said that science communication reached the region even before science was consolidated: science communication activities have been observed for at least two centuries. As soon as the prohibition of printing in Brazil was suspended in 1810, newspapers such as A Gazeta do Rio de Janeiro and O Patriotapublished science stories. Humour and science are often seen in magazines and newspapers from the 19th century. Ciência para o Povo (Science for the People), a magazine launched in 1881, shows the early combination of science and humour in popular journalism (see Figure 2), while public science lectures such as the Conferências Populares da Glória (Glória Popular Conferences) took place for almost two decades from 1883.

Figure 2

A black and white drawing in a magazine of a cooked fish on a plate with a moustachioed man's head

Humour and science: this illustration from 1866 refers to the travels of the North American naturalist Louis Agassiz in Brazil, in which he aimed to use fish as evidence against the theory of evolution. The caption reads: ‘New species discovered in the Amazon by Professor Agassiz, scaled, seasoned and roasted.’. Published in Semana Illustrada, 7 January 1866.

By contrast, there has only been a recognisable Brazilian scientific community since the beginning of the 20th century (Massarani et al., 2002).

It is significant too that Rádio Sociedade (Society Radio), the first radio station in Brazil, was created by scientists in 1923, out of the newly established Science Academy as a strategy for talking about the importance of science (Massarani, 2013).

Practical science communication activity has been observed in many countries in Latin America, not just Brazil. A landmark regional collaboration in science journalism, set up in the 1960s, was a science journalism movement involving Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela (Massarani et al., 2012). This movement began in 1962, when the Centro Internacional de Estudios Superiores de Comunicaciones para América Latina (CIESPAL, International Centre for Higher Educational Studies in Communication in Latin America) organised a seminar in Chile; and in 1965, Ecuador hosted a course on science journalism with the participation of the Spanish science journalist Calvo Hernando. At the same time there were vocal supporters of science journalism in other Latin American countries, including Jacobo Brailovsky in Argentina, José Reis in Brazil, Arístides Bastidas in Venezuela, Sergio Prenafeta in Chile and Antonio Cacua Prada in Colombia. This movement led to the consolidation of science journalism associations in these countries. Since then, there have been ups and downs in science journalism, with some countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia establishing a tradition in the field, while in others, for example in Central America, there is still a clear gap in science coverage. Thus an important challenge is to give more stability to science journalism in the region, widening the practice to the whole region.

Less often observed are initiatives that make Latin American science more visible. An exception is SciDev.Net, a non-profit organisation which has a unique goal of focusing on science and technology in the developing world (including a section for Latin America which is coordinated by the present author). SciDev.Net also organises workshops in the region to train journalists and scientists in covering science topics.[2]

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/140205/003