International media panel call for increased dialogue between journalists and science community
28 June 2011
A panel consisting of high-profile international and local members of the media called for increased dialogue between journalists and the science community at the closing session of the Middle East’s first Belief in Dialogue: ‘Science, Culture and Modernity’ conference, organised by the British Council in conjunction with American University of Sharjah (AUS) and held under the patronage of Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi, Supreme Council Member, Ruler of Sharjah and Founder and President of AUS.
The closing media panel session chaired by Julia-Vitullo Martin, Co-Director of the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowships in Science and Religion engaged participants in a lively debate about the opportunities available in covering science, culture, and modernity as well some of the barriers. Participants included Francis Mathew- Editor-At-Large of Gulf News ;
Nabil Khatib-Editor- in- Chief of Al-Arabiya News Channel ; Mishaal Al-Gergawi, blogger and social commentator; Martin Redfern- BBC World Service ;John Siniff- USA Today ; Andrew Brown- The Guardian ; Ehsan Masood- Editor , Research Fortnight ; Dr. Qanta Ahmed- Author, Associate Professor, State University of New York and Contributor to the Huffington Post and Abeer Al-Najjar -Assistant Professor, American University of Sharjah.
The panel session, which was open to the public, was attended by members of the local media and university students. The need for more diversity in the region’s media including the recruitment of reporters dedicated to covering science, culture and religion was at the forefront of the discussion. The panel criticised the region’s lack of specialised journalists, saying more needed to be done to tackle complex and often sensitive issues of science, religion and culture. Members of the audience suggested that local editors commit to appointing niche reporters who could simplify complex issues and generate reader interest in subjects which are challenging and sometimes controversial.
Fern Elsdon-Baker, Director of the British Council’s Belief in Dialogue programme, commented on the closing panel session, "It's clear from this discussion that our cultural understanding of science is highly dependent on how the media communicates it. Greater resources and training must be committed by the media and researchers in this field, as global links and better dialogue will partly depend on our appreciation of scientific development and the possible changes that can come from it.”
On the sidelines of the closing session, Dr. Nidhal Guessoum, Professor of Physics, AUS, urged the local media to report on developments in the field of science, saying, “We are seeing fewer students interested in pursuing careers in science and research as those types of jobs are typically perceived as not glamorous or financially lucrative enough. The majority of students I speak to cannot name even one Arab scientist yet they can confidently list a number of Arab entertainers, entrepreneurs and athletes.”
“It is the joint responsibility of the science community and the Arab media to alter out-dated perceptions of science in our society and motivate our youth to take a renewed interest in issues of science, theology and culture.”
Over 40 of the world’s leading thinkers from across 10 countries convened at AUS for the Middle East’s first ‘Belief in Dialogue’ conference, which is part of the British Council’s global Belief in Dialogue programme.
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Notes to Editors:
About Belief in Dialogue:
Belief in Dialogue is a new British Council programme which will explore how people in the UK and globally can live peacefully with diversity and difference in an increasing pluralistic world.
Currently in its development phase the programme will consist of a number of activities based on dialogue, widening participation and engagement with policy makers, opinion formers, thought leaders and the wider public worldwide.
Belief in Dialogue will use the British Council’s global presence and reputation for engaging in dialogue based on mutual respect to create new and innovative models for cross-community communication. The aim is to build global awareness and understanding between diverse communities which enables greater appreciation of the value of living with difference.
BiD brings together individuals with diverse opinions to hear and understand one another, helping to break down simplistic notions of ‘them’ and ‘us’. With societies around the world becoming increasingly pluralistic, we believe it is vital we all learn to see the real people beyond the stereotypes.
About the British Council:
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the arts, education, English, science, and sport and last year we engaged face to face with 18.4 million people and reached 652 million. We are a non-political organisation which operates at arm’s length from government. Our total turnover in 2009/10 was £705 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £211 million. For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org
About American University of Sharjah:
American University of Sharjah (AUS) was founded in 1997 by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. It offers 25 majors and 48 minors at the undergraduate level, and 13 master’s degrees through the College of Architecture, Art and Design; the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Engineering; and the School of Business and Management. AUS is licensed in the United States by the Department of Education of the State of Delaware. It is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. AUS is also accredited by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and all undergraduate and graduate programs are recognized by the ministry and have been awarded either accreditation or accreditation-eligible status. All six of the bachelor's degree programs in the AUS College of Engineering are accredited by ABET, Inc. of the United States. The Bachelor of Architecture program of the College of Architecture, Art and Design is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) of the United States. The School of Business and Management has earned international accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).