When Ghosh, with great fanfare, announced at a plenary session that the federation’s board had selected the joint Arab-American proposal, a great cheer arose from the audience, particularly from the contingent of Arab and U.S. science writers in the audience. A jubilant Nadia El-Awady, the Egyptian science journalist who organized the joint proposal and will become the federation’s new president, said afterward that “the most exciting thing is that it brings the conference to a new region of the world in terms of science and science journalism. The other thing is that we worked with the American science writers to organize this. That’s a completely new model. It will keep us in an international state of mind.”
“It’s the culmination of a partnership we’ve been working to build,” said Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist and University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism professor who has led the partnership from the American side. Blum, who is chairing the conference program committee, said that she was proud of the progress, adding that the Cairo conference “will have great benefits to our members and other journalists from around the world in learning and understanding science in a developing country.” (I will serve on the conference steering committee.) The last two federation conferences, held in Montreal, Canada and Melbourne, Australia, attracted 600-plus science writers. The Cairo planners are shooting for more than 1,000 attendees.
“We were disappointed,” said Patrick Luganda of Kampala, Uganda, an experienced science journalist and radio host who also chairs the Network of Climate Journalists in the Greater Horn of Africa. “Science journalism has grown quite a bit, not only in Uganda but in Africa in general. Science journalism has great relevance to people’s lives and is closely attached to development.”
Pirjo Koskinen of the Finnish Broadcasting Co. also expressed disappointment, adding, “I think we understand the decision. I think it is right it should go to a developing country. It’s very important for us to get to know Africa.”
Federation board member Valeria Roman, medical and science reporter at Clarín, the largest daily newspaper in Argentina, said that after attending the international meetings she and others were inspired to organize science journalists in her country. The Argentine Network of Science Journalism [Editor’s note: this article originally misidentified this group as the Argentinean Association of Science Journalism.] now numbers 110 members, and it is networking online and hosting meetings, included a recent workshop on tobacco control. She and four colleagues from print, radio and television were blogging together in Spanish about the London conference. “The participation of developing countries has been growing at these conferences, providing a new place to listen to the voices of journalists from our countries,” she said.