On 22 July 2020, AIMS House of Science, in partnership with African Gong conducted the Africa Scientifique introductory online workshop for the current master’s AIMS students. The Africa Scientifique (AS) programme is about Leadership, Knowledge & Skills for Science Communication. The workshop featured thought-provoking, informative and inspiring presentations by the manager of AIMS House of Science and the president of African Gong Drs Rejoyce Gavhi – Molefe and Elizabeth Rasekoala, respectively. Dr Rasekoala gave an overview of the AS programme background and rationale; Pan-African context and perspective, as well as envisaged outcomes and benefits for participants. She particularly focused on growing Africa’s capacity for Science Communication impact:

“The profound developmental challenges on the African continent, posit an imperative for African researchers, academics and science communicators, to leverage and transform the pace and scale of  the delivery of research dissemination, public engagement and scientific literacy for the benefit of  the quality of life of Africa’s citizens.”

She went on to further highlight the challenges of growing capacity for Science Communication impact on the continent and the critical role the AS programme seeks to play.

“Through its advocacy and partnership programmes, African Gong has come to realise that a critical challenge to the growth of science communication on the African continent is fundamentally, that of the poor skills, knowledge, motivation and expertise of African researchers, academics, and science communicators. The Africa Scientifique programme has thus, been conceptualised and framed to meet these critical needs and deliver capacity for change & impact”

In her second presentation, Dr Rasekoala portrayed Science Communication and Public Engagement actions, practices and drive as dynamic transformational tools for research advancement and motivation across critical parameters, such as:

  • Work-life balance and successful research outcomes.
  • Interpersonal, Presentation & Communication skills which engender Professional ethos/’polish’ and Confidence-building – these are particularly vital for progression into careers in industry as they are attuned to managerial competence, authority and status.
  • Team-working skills for research collaborative relationships, partnerships & engagements.
  • Empowering networking skills, enhancing visibility and research/academic/industry profiles and recognitions.

Dr Gavhi – Molefe’ drew on her Science Communication journey as an emerging African researcher in mathematics to advise participants on how they can advance their science communication skills and knowledge and strive for societal impact with regards to their mathematical research:

“My journey in Science Communication started after my PhD. The transition from PhD to postdoctoral research shaped my perspective about myself and how I can use my knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on society. During my stint as a postdoc in Canada, I established and consolidated my professional identity. I got involved in science communication activities that inspired me to upskill myself and aspire for societal impact using research in Computational Mathematics as a tool” 

In her second presentation, Dr Gavhi – Molefe shared various aspects that participants should consider before embarking on a post-AIMS journey, and during their studies at AIMS. Her talk included motivation, understanding one’s discipline, the difference between master’s and PhD, skills that are developed along the way, as well as challenges and associated lessons learned.

The main AS programme will feature a 3-day intensive and interactive workshop that will take place in September and a six-month post-Workshop mentoring and project activities’ support. The programme has been customised to fit with and address the specific requirements, gaps and challenges of AIMS students, researchers and academics. The Introductory workshop session was convened by Karabo Makola, House of Science intern.