AAAS: A Free Arab Press Helps Drive Scientific Progress

The ongoing “Arab Spring” movement, buttressed by an increasingly robust Arab science-reporting community, offers an opportunity for a resurgence of scientific progress and innovation in the Arab world, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner and Mohamed H.A. Hassan, co-chair of the InterAcademy Panel, wrote in a 23 June essay on the “Convergence” blog at Wired.com.

The essay, timed to the opening of the 7th World Conference of Science Journalists, 27-29 June in Doha, Qatar, affirmed the importance of a free press for the effective communication of science and public support of the research enterprise.

“Any region hoping to be recognized for innovation needs an independent press corps that is able to seek out truth, without interference, while providing a conduit for exchange between science and the rest of society,” Leshner and Hassan wrote. They added that good journalism, like good science, “thrives on openness and a respect for truth based on evidence.”

Mohamed H.A. Hassan

Mohamed H.A. Hassan

While the Arab Science Journalists Association has acknowledged some growing pains, including a possible reluctance by some reporters to challenge government sources or science institutions that provide funding for journalism activities, the group now serves some 200 members and joined with the U.S.-based National Association of Science Writers to win a global bid to host the World Conference of Science Journalists.

Alan I. Leshner

Alan I. Leshner

Leshner and Hassan note that as many Arab nations emerge with new vigor and focus, “they will benefit from building a well-functioning science and technology community that can contribute to innovation and economic growth” as well as addressing science-based challenges in sustainability and the environment.

The InterAcademy Panel, which Hassan co-chairs, is a global network of science academies. Hassan also is a former president of the African Academy of Sciences and former executive director of the Third World Academy of Sciences.

The “Convergence” blog is written by Sheril Kirshenbaum, a research scientist at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy of the University of Texas, Austin.