Africa Science Desk call for pitches

Science journalism is a “dying profession” due to the closure of science desks across the globe, and Africa is no exception. The result is a dearth of credible public information about science, which in turn produces poor public scientific literacy. Compounding effects are the disappearance of outlets by which scientists themselves gain expertise in areas outside their own fields and through which policymakers receive credible information on science.

In Africa, as elsewhere, science stories are overwhelmed by politics, sports and business news. The poor quality and quantity of science stories is exacerbated by a ‘formal training deficit’ on the continent, because few journalists have a science background. Moreover, stories are increasingly written from press releases without independent analysis or skeptical review. This leads to the unfortunate and ever-increasing practice of “churnalism”, whereby news organisations republish verbatim material sent by public relations agencies and commercial sources, undermining the credibility of science reporting.

Reinforcing and building science journalism in Africa is the focus of a two-year project being implemented by the African Academy of Sciences in partnership with the African Federation of Science Journalists and the South African Science Journalists Association through the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At the AAS, the Africa Science Desk will be implemented through the AAS and the NEPAD Agency’s Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa, an agenda setting and funding platform.

The project will initially focus on Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa, with journalists from these countries being funded to produce TV documentaries, short web videos, explainers, short or long-form investigative reports and data stories aimed at local or global news markets.  The selected or the qualifying journalists will be paired with senior science journalists internationally as well as continentally who will provide the mentorship needed to improve the quality of science reporting.

Journalists and newsrooms are invited to submit pitches. The pitches will be considered monthly through mid-2019 based on submission by the 5th of each month.

Pitches must be no longer than 1-page and be accompanied by the following documentation:

  • A pitch focusing on one or more of the six strategic areas of the African Academy of Sciences: health and wellbeing, climate change (and its relation to either health or food security), food security and nutritional wellbeing, water and sanitation, sustainable energy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
  • A list of target interviewees.
  • Examples of the journalist’s previous work, which must include at least three science stories (upon first-time submission).
  • A proposed budget, which must not exceed US$700 per story.
  • A letter of support from the Editor and proof of acceptance of a pitch where applicable for freelance journalists
  • Biographical information or CV (upon first-time submission).

Please submit all proposals to the AAS Ishango Grants System.

Email AfricaScienceDesk for any questions.