Indonesia from space on planet Earth with green network lines representing international communication

Advancing science communication in Indonesia

12 April 2024
Building science journalism is pivotal to tackling planetary health
Professor Sonja Van Wichelen has been awarded a competitive Australia-Indonesia Institute grant to lead a new project aimed at advancing science journalism in Indonesia with a focus on planetary health.

Collaboration between scientists and journalists was pivotal to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. It also highlighted the important role science journalism can play in other areas of crisis such as climate change where reporting relies heavily on interpreting largely complex scientific findings.

In Indonesia science journalism has shifted from COVID-19 to climate change and the impacts of the environmental crisis on health. This has required a deeper understanding of planetary health and the ethical challenges of open data practices in the Indonesian health sector.

A new project led by Professor Sonja Van Wichelen aims to promote collaboration and build capacity at the science media interface in Indonesia. The project, which is funded by an Australia-Indonesia Institute Grant, will consider how Indonesian journalists can best collaborate with scientists to advance effective science communication in the area of planetary health.

“Science communication is core to sustainability,” says Professor Sonja van Wichelen. “This project aims to increase collaboration between scientists and journalists to progress critical science communication. It will evaluate how journalists and scientists from a range of disciplines can best work together to communicate the effects of the environmental crisis on health.”

“The project also aims to enhance the dissemination of scientific knowledge in Indonesia within a global push to open science. This push has consequences for indigenous data sovereignty on the one hand and the privatisation of data on the other.”

Science journalists, science communication experts and bioscientists will come together to evaluate best practices of collaboration, uses of open data and knowledge transfer. The group will produce Guidelines for how science journalists can best work with scientists and how they can ethically access, understand, navigate and use data from various platforms. This will improve long-term scientific assessment and strengthen science communication for planetary health and sustainable development more generally.

This project builds on an existing collaboration between the University of Sydney, Universitas Airlangga and the Society of Indonesian Science Journalists (SISJ). Up to 10 early-career science journalists with an interest in global health, public health policy, bioinformatics, biomedical sciences and digital health will participate. They will each complete a writing project on their area of interest and share their process during a joint workshop with Universitas Airlangga in Surabaya.

Distinguished Indonesian science journalist Dyna Rochmyaningsih (Knight Science Journalism Fellow 2023–24, MIT, Cambridge) will guide participants on how to identify stories during a preparatory session. The session will also cover conceptual issues in planetary health, key problems in open science initiatives focused on health within developing countries and integrated approaches to science communication.

At the joint workshop, participants will have an opportunity to develop their projects with theme leads from SISJ. This collaboration will help strengthen relationships between early-career and established journalists and help build capacity for the next generation of science journalists in Indonesia.

“This Australia-Indonesia Institute Grant project will be geared towards strengthening Indonesia’s science journalist community and creating future relationships across and within both Australia and Indonesia,” Professor Van Wichelen said.

“As science journalism in Indonesia and globally moves to investigating the impacts of climate change, knowledge sharing and building best practices in science communication is more important than ever.”

Australian Government logo at left and Australia-Indonesia Institute logo at right

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