With all the hype around online (and with misinformed people like Donald Trump tweeting about how Ebola victims should have stayed in Africa to prevent spreading the virus), it’s time to talk about how Ebola has exposed a gap in science communication.
While organisations like the CDC created a resource for people in the US in the form of a forum on Twitter, there is still a gap in communication efforts. In fact, just a few days ago, the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) put out a statement laying out the need for science journalists who can communicate the facts of the Ebola outbreak.
This statement wasn’t just addressing the dearth of science journalism in the United States (as Faye Flam of Knight Science Journalism Tracker at MIT addressed here). The WFSJ was also concerned by the lack of science journalism happening on the ground.
Too often we assume that online public health campaigns and social media can spread information to people who need it. Forgetting that the best way to reach people is to tap into channels that they know and trust – which may be social media, or perhaps their morning TV/radio show, the local newspaper or the community bulletin board.
In a crisis, communication is aid. Communication reassures people, provides vital information, and (when done well) puts communities on the road to recovery a lot faster.
In the case of Ebola, this need has not yet been met.
Interested in the concept of communication as aid? Take a look at this video.