AI and machine learning set to change science journalism landscape

National News 1

Hyderabad, September 02: The role of science journalists
and communicators
can be crucial in bringing science closer to the people.
Experts emphasized this at a symposium on science journalism and communication
held here on Friday.

While inaugurating the symposium, Dr. R. Hemalatha, Director,
National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) said 
“there are many research achievements of various scientific institutes in
the country, which can be useful for industrial and societal applications.
Science communicators should highlight the importance of such scientific
efforts to people through their writing. Doing so can help policy makers to
tackle problems along with increasing awareness about scientific research.”

“Future science journalists could be automated. Machine learning,
deep learning and Artificial Intelligence are capable of transforming various
branches of journalism, including science journalism. In journalism, content is
crucial, not the person who writes it”, said Vasudeva Varma, an AI expert from
Indian Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, while speaking on the
future of science journalism.

Dr. Subbarao M.G. senior scientist at NIN, stated that “science
writers should focus his attention on positive and negative aspects equally so
that misconceptions in society can be busted. By maintaining a balance in
science writing, one can maintain objectivity and avoid falling prey to any
kind of agenda setting. ”

Science communication in Indian languages is necessary to
promote scientific temper at a broader level especially in a country like India
where a large chunk of population lives in rural areas, speakers pointed out . Science
journalist Gopal Krishna, associated with Sakshi, a Telugu newspaper, said that
“effective science communication is not possible without Indian languages.
Just translating from English to Hindi or any other language is not the perfect
way of communicating science. It is easier to understand if scientific facts are
presented in the media in lay person’s point of view rather than in technical
jargon.”

“What do science and communication have in common? Clarity,
accuracy and curiosity,” felt D.R. Mohan Raj, veteran science communicator and
former professor of journalism. “Basic questions should be addressed in health
reporting for making people aware. Journalists
should pay attention to innovations related to health sector. Eventually, science
journalists can help in the promotion of health awareness by eliminating the
distance between scientists and people”, says Dr. M. Maheshwar, scientist
at NIN.

Concern was also expressed about the fake news. Sumit
Narula, director of journalism and communication department at Amity University,
Gwalior, said skilled science journalists can play an important role in dealing
with the problem of fake news especially in health reporting. Chitti Panthulu
Editor-in-chief, Veeoz Labs, said digital technologies are set change of face
of traditional journalism.  

Dr. Kollegala Sharma, a scientist at the Central Food
Technology Research Institute, Mysore, emphasized that “a rapidly evolving
technology like artificial intelligence can create greater digital divide. To
reach the majority population of the country, only Indian languages have to be
chosen. The role of the podcast may be important for the same.”

This symposium was jointly organized by Vigyan Prasar and
NIN. It is an attempt to improve efforts related to popularizing science by
journalists and writers. Science journalism landscape in the country is
changing though a number of issues at institutional level are yet to be
addressed in both media and scientific institutions said Dinesh C. Sharma,
Managing Director of India Science Wire.

About 105 participants including researchers, students,
professors of science and journalism participated in this seminar organized at
the National Institute of Nutrition.

By Umashankar Mishra

(India Science Wire)

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