Our especial guest in this podcast is Dr. Bernard Appiah, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University.
Dr. Appiah is also the Director of the Centre for Science and Health Communication, a nonprofit based in Ghana, with a mission of promoting public engagement with science and health issues. He is involved in two main programs: a project to help environmental researchers engage the media in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom (as principal investigator); and 2) the AuthorAID project of INASP, United Kingdom, which provides networking, mentoring, resources and training for researchers in developing countries to publish and otherwise communicate their research (as graduate research assistant). In these roles, he combines his communication expertise in research, teaching, and service.
He tells us that: “I look for students that are willing to learn…”
“It does not matter what your first degree is. I don’t want the students to limit themselves. A student may say I studied chemistry, I only have to do master’s in chemistry, or a PhD in chemistry. Look at what interests you…in the US in particular, if you study chemistry, you can be a medical doctor, if you study music you still can be a medical doctor, it just depends on what you want to do.”
“As for graduate students, I think that as long as work is supposed to be done, I don’t care whether you are going to use your weekend or your night to finish it and use the day to do something different. As long as you do it, is ok with me.”
“I give the students a lot of flexibility. Academia is not a job where it is supposed to be there at 8 o’clock and end at 5 o’clock. Sometimes I come here on weekends, sometimes I have to put long hours.”
“In Ghana’s folklore the wisest animal is the ant.”
“I wanted to get educated because early on, living in the village, I started to question things like why were people dying at such young ages? If you live in a rural area you are exposed to a lot of superstitious beliefs like “because I did something bad to the gods”. I thought that having an education was the best way for me to knowing. I did not grow up seeing people with bow and tie, I lived in the village.”
“I never saw anyone from my village going to the university when I was a child.”
“I knew that education could take me places”
“Science and tech journalism is very important…once people get literate in science, superstition cannot survive”
“Policy makers need information to make policy that is based on evidence”
“Science journalists are in a position to feed policy makers with evidence-based data”
“In the developing world, politicians make laws that are not seen favorable because they are not well informed on issues”
“If the population is scientifically literate they can put pressure on the politicians”
Produced by Felipe Gonzalez in Costa Rica.