Dr. Helga Rietz, delivering the keynote address at the conference. ©Embassy of Switzerland in India
Dr. Helga Rietz, delivering the keynote address at the conference. ©Embassy of Switzerland in India

Switzerland and India Partner to Strengthen Science Journalism in India

The Science Journalists Association of India (SJAI), set up in September 2021, organised its first ever conference on the theme “Strengthening science journalism in India: Global trends, regional media and the science-society connect”. The conference brought together writers, scientists and policymakers from across India to discuss, amongst other topics making science accessible to a broad audience. The Embassy of Switzerland in India, and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation supported the conference by inviting a speaker from Switzerland to participate.

Dr. Helga Rietz, Science Communications Manager at ETH AI Center and a Committee Member of the Swiss Association of Science Journalists, set the stage with a keynote speech, as well as participated in a panel discussion.

Commenting on her visit to India and her participation at the Conference, Dr Rietz said:

“The event provided a unique platform to delve into the distinctive challenges faced by science journalists in India and fostered conversations on various topics. A key focus of our discussions revolved around the accessibility of researchers and their readiness to contribute to media coverage of scientific advancements. I was surprised to learn that many science journalists in India find it easier to reach out to and connect with researchers based in Europe and North America than with those in their home country. Another central theme was the linguistic diversity of India and the ensuing challenge of promoting science literacy, particularly in rural areas where educational resources may be limited. Our conversations delved into innovative approaches, including leveraging artificial intelligence, to disseminate scientific knowledge at scale. I’m taking home new ideas and lots of inspiration - after all, science journalism in Europe is also facing major challenges, which, although different from those of our colleagues in India, can benefit from similar innovations.

The Swissnex network and Swissnex in India have a long association with promoting science journalism. Swissnex in India has organised successful science communication events in 2017 and 2018, and supported the participation of an Indian delegation at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Lausanne in 2019. During the Covid pandemic CovidSciCom, a global study involving practitioners and experts across India, Switzerland and the United States, was coordinated by Swissnex in India and Swissnex in Boston, aimed at strengthening the international network of science communicators and experts. The Swiss Development Corporation has also organised several capacity building events for the media on climate change topics (see here).

The event was a successful one and the Swiss participation was much appreciated. The association can expect to continue. Setting up a collaboration between the Science Journalists Association of India and the Swiss Association of Science Journalists is also being explored, thus opening up new areas of dialogue and cooperation between the two countries in science outreach, crucial in these times of fake news to disseminate accurate and credible information on advances in the scientific endeavour.

Panel discussion on the role of journalists in connecting science to society. From left to right: Dr. Sarah Iqbal, Consultant, Foundation for Advancing Science and Technology; Dr. Shubha Tole, Professor, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research; Dr. Helga Rietz; Mr Ankur Paliwal, Science Journalist and Founder queerbeat.
From left to right: Ms Shubhra Priyadarshini, Chief Editor, Nature India and President, Science Journalists Association of India, Dr Helga Rietz, Dr Olivier Fink, Minister and Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Switzerland to India ©Embassy of Switzerland in India