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The Public Understanding of Science in Africa

Cambridge/Africa Collaborative Programme 2009-2010

Public Understanding of Science in Africa

With support from the Leverhulme Trust and the Isaac Newton Trust

Convened by Professor Megan Vaughan

Elected Fellows

Dr Verkijika Fanso
Professor of History, University of Yaoundé, Cameroon
Public Health Education in Anglophone Cameroon from the Past to the Present

Ms Muza Gondwe
Science Columnist, The Guardian Newspaper, Malawi
To study the evidence base that has led to the development of public engagement projects and to identify public engagement best practices that can be applied in a resource poor setting

Dr Wapu Mulwafu
Department of History, Chancellor College, University of Malawi
To collect and analyse additional data in the Public Relations Office on the historical and scientific origins of conservation. He also wishes to revise his doctoral thesis for publication

Dr Joseph Muriithi
Institute of Applied Sciences, Kenyatta University
Pastoralism, agriculture or ecotourism? Contested Conservation Ideas and Land Use Options in Maasailand, Kenya

Public Understanding of Science in Africa Conference

Nairobi, 22-24 September 2010


  • Science and publics in Africa (General Themes)
  • Science Journalism (papers and journalists’ round-table)
  • Public Health/Health Research
  • Traditional Medicine/Indigenous Knowledge and Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Agriculture / Forestry and the State
  • Environment/Conservation
  • Climate Change

Call for Papers


Wednesday 22 September 

Environment, Conservation

  • Wapu Muluwafu (Department of History, Chancellor College, Malawi)
  • Joseph Kariuki (Moi University, Kenya)
  • Roger Day (CABI Africa), Invasive Species: an Alien Idea to African Publics?


  • Edith Gathoni (World AgroForestry Centre ICRAF, Nairobi, Kenya), Famer’s Local Knowledge of Coffe Agro Forests and Tapping into Eco-Certification Initiatives in Central Kenya
  • Karen Brown (Wellcome Unit, History of Medicine, University of Oxford, UK), Scientific Engagements with Rural Communities in South Africa

Climate Change

  • Sam Mukasa (University of Michigan, USA), The Perfect Storm: Africa at the Precipice of Climate Change and Population Explosian
  • Eleanor Campbell (London School of Economics, UK), ’How I See Green’: Ethiopian Perspectives on Climate Change

Indigenous Knowledge, Traditional Medicine and Science

  • Verkijika Fanso, Biomedicine/Traditional Medicine in Cameroon
  • Charles Dhewa (Knowledge Transfer, Africa), The Role of Translation in the Public Understanding of Science in Africa
  • Brita Rutert (Social Anthropology, Free University, Berlin), Making Science Public: On Plants, Products and Participation
  • Helan Verran (History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne), The Natural Products Chemist and the African Healer: a Thought Experiment

Thursday 23 September

Science, Publics, Representation, and Health

Science, the Media and Publics

  • William Firestone (Harvard Kennedy School, USA), Understanding Kenyan Media Coverage of Science: A Network Approach
  • Bankole Falade (London School of Economics, UK), Media Representation of Science and Biomedicine in Nigeria
  • Janelisa Musaya (Microbiology Dept, College of Medicine, Malawi), The Ethics of Health and Medical Research Reporting in the Malawian Press
  • Ama de Graft-Aikins and Lem Atanga (Regional Institute for Population Studies, University of Ghana, Ghana/LSE Health, London School of Economics, London, UK &Department of African Studies, University of Dschang, Cameroon), Representations of chronic diseases in Ghanaian and Cameroonian newspapers

Round Table Session: Science Journalism in Africa

Science Journalists          

  • Danston Kaunda (New Science Journalist, Zambia), Science Reporting to Lay Public
  • Christopher Kakunta (Science Journalist, National Agricultural Information Agency, Zambia), The African Media and the GMO debate in Zambia
  • Aidah Nyanjo (New Vision, Uganda)
  • Justus Wanzala (Kenya Broadcasting Commission)
  • Duncan Mboyah (AWC, Kenya)
  • Agatha Ngotho (People Daily, Kenya)
  • Fidelis Mbah (BBC World Service)
  • Bibi Asha Mbete

Science, Health, Publics: Engagement and Representation       

  • Tracey Chantler (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK), Community Engagement and Questions of Representation
  • Ferdinand Okwaro (Affiliation?), Scientific Collaboration in Kenya
  • Gemma Jones (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK), Why do research participants participate?
  • Estelle Kouokam (Catholic University of Central Africa), Malaria and interpretations of climate change in Cameroon. A case study
  • Guillaume Lachenal (University of Paris 5, France), Performing and parodying ‘Global Health’ in Cameroon

Thursday 23 September at 5.30 pm

British Institute of East Africa, Annual Lecture

Professor Nelson Sewamkambo

Public Understanding of Science in Africa

Following by a drinks and a reception, hosted by the British Institute of East Africa

Friday 24 September

Chronic disease and biomedical technology

  • Julie Livingstone (Rudgers University, USA), Botswana’s Cancer Epidemic
  • Benson Mulemi (Catholic University, Kenya), Information divergence and cancer management uncertainities. Ethnography of a cancer referral ward in Kenya

Science Café

  • Patrice Mawa (Science Café, Uganda), Science communication goes Local: the Ugandan Story
  • Ruth Wanjala and Juliette Muthiu (Science Café, Kenya)

Public Engagement with Science: Approaches 1 (biotechnology)

  • Professor Pamela Andanda (School of Law, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa), Using Public Engagement to bridge the gap between creating regulatory frameworks for biotechnological advances and implementation: Lessons from South Africa
  • Sarah-Louize Quinnell (Kings College, London), Who Controls/Creates the Space for Participation? Science, the Public and GMO Regulation in Africa

Public Engagement with Science: Approaches 2 (consortiums, science and schools, Mhealth, films)

    • Daniel Masiga, Saidi Kapiga & Professor Nelson Sewankampo (Medical School, Makerere University, Uganda), THRiVE: A Consortium for Strengthening Health Research in Africa
    • Alun Davies (Kenya Medical Research Institute), Engaging Schools with Health Research and Science in Kilifi, Kenya
    • Issac Holmann (Frontline SMS), MHealth in Context: Understanding Community Resources and Learning Processes for Mobile Phone Usage in Malawi
    • Ama de Graft-Aikins (Regional Institute for Population Studies, University of Ghana and LSE Health, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK), Bernard Akoi-Jackson (Nubuke Foundation, Accra) and Ursula Read (Department of Anthropology, University College London), Exploring the role of creative arts in mental health promotion in Ghana
    • Dr Sarojiny Saddul-Hauzaree (Mauritius Institute of Education), Analysing the Public Understanding of Science Initiatives in Mauritius
    • Film-showing and discussion of the film by Muza Gondwe: African Scientists