Bsc Agriculture to Science Communications Officer
Name: Fikayo Oyewale (he/him)
Job: Scientific Communications Officer at African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Redeemer's University, Ede, Nigeria
A levels/ equivalent: I completed my high school studies at Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo, Nigeria
Undergrad and post grad degrees:
Bachelor of Agriculture and
Master of Science degrees in Animal Science, both from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Favourite science fact: Science is about research, properly spelt “re-search”. That is, you continue to “search” until you find answers, which leads to another cycle of search.
Journey in 3 Words: Research. Innovation. Communication.
Briefly describe your role
Presently, my roles include presenting genomics research activities and outputs in everyday language and disseminating these through social media, blogs, videos, policy briefs, etc. I also work with scientists who are interested in distilling their research for the public using infographics, STEAM (using the arts in STEM) and documentaries, among others.
What motivated you to pursue a career in science:
In a geography class during my penultimate year in high school, my teacher told us that over 60% of Nigeria’s annual tomato production gets damaged due to poor storage, transportation and processing facilities, among others. He also told us some agricultural feats recorded in the country decades ago. I was alarmed by these facts and I began to ask myself what I could do to solve some of the problems. My contemplations led to my decision to study animal science at the university. Things I got exposed to during my undergraduate and Master’s studies strengthened my resolve about solving problems through science.
How have your work experiences molded your career path now?
I found my current career path while doing my work as a Technical Officer of an agriculture-oriented research for development project. It was an instance of doing all you can where you are. I opened myself to going beyond my terms of reference to add value to the project. It was while on this trajectory that I got introduced to science communication.
From my work experience, I recognize how scientists work hard to solve society's problems and how disconnected these efforts are from the people the solutions are meant to serve. This emphasizes the importance of science communication. While this is a thriving area in Europe and America, it seems we are yet to start in Africa. I knew that some people needed to bridge the gap here in Africa if the impact of our scientific community will be greater. Hence, I chose to be one of such.
How did you know a pHd was for you?
I am a scientist, and I would like to remain a scientist. Earning a PhD will position me to conduct research at the highest levels. I also believe that the training involved in obtaining a PhD will equip me to better help scientists and their organizations with science communication and public engagement. Lastly, some of the most exceptional science communication professionals (SciCommers) that I admire are PhD holders.
We connected via @scicomm chat - How did you get into scicomm?
I got into science communication while working as the Technical Officer of a research for development project here in Nigeria. Due to my writing skills, I became responsible for writing blogs on the project. Sometime later, my boss (the PI) asked if I would consider doing science writing. I searched online and found that it was something I'd love to do.
Towards the end of the project, we desired to produce a documentary on the activities and impact of the project. We had unpleasant experiences with our previous efforts at commissioning regular journalists and media organizations to communicate our work. At this point, I was already keen about developing my SciComm skills. I looked for, found and took free online courses. Afterwards, I proposed to the management that I should write the script for the documentary while we engage a videographer to record, edit and produce it. This was accepted, and I directed the production.
Going forward, I have immersed myself in developing my scicomm skills. Despite planning my PhD in science, I see myself focusing on practicing and promoting science communication for the next foreseeable part of my career. I registered a company (Alpha Innovation Studio) with the goal of providing professional science communication and public engagement service to scientists, projects and institutions in Africa. I currently work as a Scientific Communications Officer at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Redeemer's University, Ede, Nigeria.
It was quite difficult getting science communication training on the African continent. My former project was going to sponsor me for trainings outside Nigeria but I could not secure visas needed for the travels. I have had to leverage every possible resource to learn the skills that I have, and I am actively learning more as well as looking for people whom I can share with.
With your unique experience of scicomm in Nigeria, how do you see the field growing and what advice would you give to people interested in the field?
Please permit me to extend my response to Africa. Except for South Africa and some parts of East Africa, SciComm is in its infancy in most of Africa, including Nigeria. While a measure of science journalism occurs in some quarters across the continent, active and direct SciComm from scientists and their institutions looks very minimal. Recent events (particularly the Covid-19 pandemic) have shown the necessity for active science communication from scientists and scicomm professionals working with them.
I know that Africa needs many more science communicators, and I want to contribute actively to the discovery, development and growth of these. Just yesterday, knowing that I am into science communication, a younger friend who had his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the same departments as I did was asking me about the potential of agricultural communication. I was quick to tell him that the demand is high, much higher than the current supply.
I would advise people interested in scicomm not to limit themselves. Look out for learning opportunities (there are many free ones out there), develop your skills and START something, no matter how seemingly small it is. Build your profile by doing scicomm, even if it is free at first. Keep records of your scicomm activities and outputs (preferably online) so that you can readily reference them for opportunities in the future. Also, do not rest on your oars. Keep pushing yourself to know more about scicomm and what others are doing. Then, you will be on your way to becoming a high-value scicomm professional. Connect with professionals in the field. Reach out to people if you need guidance. From my observation, scicommers are generally very open to sharing with others and encouraging them. I am happy to connect and collaborate with anyone on scicomm, especially as it relates to Africa.
What resources helped you most during your career journey?
The SciDev.net's Science Communication Skills for Journalists (free) course and STEAM Summer School (moderately priced) were very influential in developing my perception and skills in science communication. These days, I follow and interact with SciComm professionals online (primarily Twitter). This is an almost endless resource as many of them share links to different platforms and opportunities.
What advice would you give on dealing with rejection and perseverance?
Every rejection you experience is a sign that you can get better; it is an opportunity for you to get some more refining. Without being condescending and without having a pity party, search out what you can improve upon in yourself or your project. Work on improving such and try again. Your chances of getting accepted increases with your level of refining.
When considering your career path, how much has your potential salary affected your decision?
I am not driven by my potential salary. I want to make an impact where it greatly matters. That was why I chose to study animal science earlier, and that is why I am at my present position. I belong to mailing lists where I receive several adverts for science communication positions in Europe and other parts of the world every week. These are positions for which I am a potentially strong candidate, which would pay me multiples of what I currently earn. I chose to stay at ACEGID (Nigeria) because the Centre is doing meaningful research, and I am able to contribute directly to its effort at changing the narratives about science from Africa. And you know, narratives are all about communication.
Outside science how would you describe yourself
I am a people person who loves making things happen (arranging things, organizing events, just making things happen).
Please Link any public scicomm work you have done below .
SAMPLES OF MY WRITING AND PRODUCTION
A. Articles published for ACEGID
Four Takeaways from Our Recent Paper on Tuberculosis in Nigeria: https://acegid.org/2021/09/08/four-takeaways-from-our-recent-paper-on-tuberculosis-in-nigeria/
ACEGID Genomics Centre: Better Space for Scientific Research available at https://acegid.org/2020/09/22/acegid-genomics-centre-better-space-for-creating-science/
ACEGID named as a Continental Reference Laboratory by WHO and Africa CDC available at: https://acegid.org/2020/09/14/who-africacdc-name-acegid-as-continental-reference-laboratory/
B. Videos recorded, edited and produced for ACEGID
Do it Afraid available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR3kcE6V83c
2020 at ACEGID available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iikwDufBjeQ
ACEGID Stories available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSk0ovste2M
C. ACGG-NG contents published online
Hobby to Business Documentary series available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a97Oi0obKdE&list=PL9nPfxxVaaI4IjRDcjARHoQCou-z9Q5yw&index=4
ACGG Nigeria participates in Ife City Trade Expo 2016 available at: https://africacgg.net/2017/01/05/ife-trade-expo-2016/
ACGG–Nigeria deploys innovative village poultry vaccination model accessible at: https://africacgg.net/2017/02/10/nigeria-innovative-vaccination-model/
Fourth national innovation platform meeting in Nigeria lays ground for a functional forum accessible at: https://africacgg.net/2017/02/24/nigeria_nip4/
science poem titled Diversity Stays Back Home newly published in the 6th issue of Consilience Journal.
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