"JOURNALISM about science, technology, engineering, and all manner of innovation is not really just about the science. The stories written are about tackling the country’s and our world’s most perplexing and urgent problems like environmental conservation, climate change, disasters, and public health crises."
This was underscored by University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Graduate Studies Department professor Clarissa David in her keynote address during the 1st UP Science Journalism Awards at the university's film studio in Quezon City recently.
Tracing back the journey of her late father, who is a rice scientist, David stressed that communicating science is not really about the scientists and their work, it is rather about the broader public that these scientific advances seek to serve.
"Science for the public good can only be realized when the science is informed by communication and journalism," she said.
The professor described the state of science journalism in the Philippine as something that needs improvement.
There is lack of demand from audiences for science-centered news stories because any stories will have to compete for public attention on all other things that require it, like politics, national security, and global affairs, she said.
David lamented that there is not really a broad constituency for science and technology as indicated by a lack of public funding, the lack of public attention, and a lack of press coverage.
"We don't have to be scientists to help science get on the public and policy agenda, there is much to do by way of communication and good journalism," David said, adding that "science journalists need support if we want them to help us in this mission."
Stories about Mayon Volcano, dengvaxia, the fire on Mt. Pulag, and research on Benham Rise are just among the evolving circumstances making good science reporting urgent and necessary in the country.
David expressed optimism that barriers to reporting science stories like these are getting lower.
Now that news is largely consumed online, she said the issue of "scarcity of space" that dominated much of the logic of what is considered newsworthy is on the decline.
David said communicating the importance of any scientific research work is, centrally, the role of journalists.
"Journalists have a nose for the story, for the public interest, for sorting out the important points amidst the technical jargon," she noted.
David then appealed to science writers and editors to emphasize the journalism not on the scientists but on the substance of their works and its impact on the community.
Responding to the challenge of giving more importance to science journalism, the UP College of Mass Communication initiated the said Science Journalism Awards. This is a project component of Communicating Science and Technology Research and Development at UP (CoST UP).
This initiative is aimed at recognizing the exemplary reporting in science and technology, as well as, the scientific researches and developments in the country.
It also aims to acknowledge the importance of communicating accurate science stories and the mainstreaming of science and technology into the public consciousness.
From 60 nominations of a diverse group of mainstream and community media organizations nationwide, four SunStar journalists emerged as winner and finalists.
This writer representing SunStar Bacolod was among the three finalists for Best UP Science Story for Print and Online along with Nickolas Tubo of SunStar Philippines.
Herty Lopez of Super Balita Cebu was a finalist for Best Science Feature Story for Print and Online while Nef Luczon of SunStar Cagayan De Oro won the Best Science Commentary for Print and Online.
The other winners are Angelica Yang of GMA News Online for Best Science News Story, Edmund Usman of Rappler for Best Science Feature Story for Print and Online, Michael Joe Delizo of ABS-CBN/DZMM for Best Science Story for Radio, and Mikael Angelo Francisco of GMA News Online for Best UP Science Story.
They received a cash prize and a trophy designed by the late National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva.
The judging committee is composed of journalists, academicians, scientists, and an economist to well represent science and technology as an interdisciplinary field.
Dr. Elena Pernia, program leader of CoST UP and dean of College of Mass Communication, said very often science is perceived to be something that is not understandable, something that exists in laboratories.
Pernia said the program aims to bring home the fact that "everything we do and everything that we use" benefited and continues to benefit from developments in science.
"The UP Science Journalism Awards is part of that communicating product it is to bring the journalists together with the scientists to deliver the message to the ordinary man that science is something that is daily beneficial,” she added.