At El Comercio we continue with our series of interviews with relevant people from the Peruvian science and research. The excerpt presented below is part of the second season of the podcast series “Peruvian Minds”, Where we will seek to know what is behind Peruvian scientists, researchers and experts from different disciplines.
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After finishing her degree in Chemistry at the National University of Engineering (UNI) and having been in Spain for several years doing a master’s and doctorate, Dr. Myra E. Flores returned to Peru. Working and already on the path to a career dedicated to research, she received the opportunity to venture into the popularization of science, another of his passions, from the hand of Concytec. This week’s special guest on El Comercio’s Peruvian Minds podcast tells us why you consider it important to increase scientific culture in Peru.
– Has the pandemic been used to improve science communication in our country?
It is not a secret that, at the beginning of the pandemic, many countries did not communicate well, especially in our country with the issue of chlorine dioxide, ivermectin. There was too much misinformation and sometimes the press did not always contribute to the improvement but also made the mistake. We could say that in Peru it was understandable, because until now there was no formal training for people who wanted to enter the field. science journalism and outreach. But the good side is that Many popularizers appeared who saw this problem and said: we must help. For the first time I saw a great proliferation of people beginning to communicate science, all trying to inform better.
“That’s one of the best things that ever happened …”
Of course. I spent five and a half years in Spain doing my doctorate and envied the number of science communicators there. Most are researchers who, with PhDs and all, take the time to disseminate. In Peru there was still no that and it was rich to see that, suddenly, podcasts appeared or to see initiatives on Instagram, which has been the main platform for the divulgation. Even TikTok. There was a somewhat painful beginning, but also a majority response from the scientific community, and then a mixture, which has allowed us to communicate a little better. Of everything bad, there is always something good. In this case, they have already realized a little of how important it is to know how to communicate science.
“Researchers have to get used to leaving the laboratory a little bit more and communicating.”
– Why, despite the interest of the population, have not new spaces appeared in the media for scientific issues?
It is understandable that they have to go towards the most profitable side, but the problem is that it is done in excess and, perhaps, important issues are left aside. Perhaps there is no awareness in the media that their services are not only economic, but a public service. But I think there are also some who did want to do it, but did not know who to turn to. Perhaps, from the Concytec, we failed to offer that if you needed a specialist in any subject, they could write to us to give them the information, and thus also discover which specialist communicates best. Because in our system we have those who communicate very well and others who don’t. For example, I have worked a lot with the physicist Modesto Montoya, one of the main local publishers, and they called him a lot to comment even on subjects that he did not master. So what I did was give the reference of another researcher, which is ideal. However, sometimes more was informed on the subject to come out to give an opinion. I once asked him why he was doing that, and he replied that if he didn’t come out, no one was going to come out to speak to the media. We cannot say that not only the media have not done this work, but also that researchers have to get used to leaving the laboratory a little more and communicating. In the latter case, the ones that I think should be required are those with public funding.
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—What else needs to be done to reinforce the communication of science to the population?
What must be done is to increase the scientific culture, which is what the dissemination or popularization of science. That a citizen is able to go to a supermarket and be able to understand the nutritional information of the products and decide between one or the other. Today many do not know what it is for. Something more circumstantial: the decision to get vaccinated or not, to say that the Pfizer vaccine or the Sinopharm vaccine is better. Those are questions that we should not be asking ourselves, but it is due to the lack of scientific culture. In our country, teachers make their effort, but there are others for whom it is only their job, they do not put their hearts into it or do not have the skills. Sometimes I find it difficult to say, there are science teachers who do not understand what they are teaching. But this is a problem that comes from all sides and must be faced. First, basic education must be strengthened, as teachers have the ability to shape minds.