Monday, 14 March 2016

SciDev.Net: Stay Informed, Avoid the Jargon

Author: Morganne Blais-McPherson

There’s a famous scene in the hit TV show “Friends” where a broke Joey is approached by a salesman selling encyclopedias. As part of his pitch, the salesman asks Joey if his friends ever have conversations in which he just nods along, not completely sure what his friends are talking about. We then watch as Joey reminisces for two and a half minutes.

Let’s be honest, when it comes to discussions on topics like the latest developments in conservation policy or new hybridizing methods in agriculture, most of us have nodded harder than a pigeon to reggae music. Sentences always seem to start and end with acronyms, with scientific jargon appearing more often than commas in a U1 philosophy paper. And then the dreadful question arises. How can one then teach up-to-date material on these topics in simple English when half of it sounds extraterrestrial?

SciDev.Net ( offers a solution to our Joey-pigeon problems. SciDev.Net is a not-for-profit organization that provides broad news coverage, as well as views and analyses on science and technology. Although it is based in London, the organization brings together advisors, users, consultants, and journalists from all around the world, most of which are based in the global South. As well, it offers six regional editions spanning four languages (English, French, Spanish, and Arabic). Launched in 2001, the network aims to strengthen communication between communities in science, technology, and development in order to facilitate a common effort towards effective and sustainable changes.

Their website covers six topics: agriculture, environment, health, governance, enterprise, and communication. Each of these is further divided into subcategories (for example, within the environment section, you can find articles on biodiversity, climate change, pollution, conservation, biofuels, and much more). The articles provide concise coverage of new developments in science, technology, and global development in general, with clearly indicated links to the original material.

If what you need is to stay informed and not be a-pigeon-bobbing-along-to-reggae, SciDev.Net is perfect. Although not as frequently updated as major news sources, SciDev.Net’s coverage of developments is wide enough to get a broad idea of what’s going on. Importantly, articles stay away from jargon as much as possible. Concepts considered simple for experts in the field are explained when mentioned, making posts more accessible than your average science and technology mumbo jumbo. However, many of their analyses are not the most insightful and they probably won’t question your views on social or environmental policy. That being said, their purpose is to inform people on current events in science, technology, and global development, and on this they succeed, making the website a great tool for educators wanting to teach sustainability issues.

At the end of the day, staying up-to-date on the topics being taught is a duty to one’s students and the community. The pigeon routine might be slightly embarrassing in a social setting, but should be completely avoided in the classroom. SciDev.Net is a great tool for those teachers who want to stay on top of current scientific and technological developments. And unlike Joey’s salesman, this website guarantees a 0$ down payment with a 0$/month fee over a prolonged and indefinite period of time. So, subscribe today and leave the Don Carlos routine for when you file your income tax!

Morganne Blais-McPherson is a McGill Neuroscience alumna who is guilty of having used excessive jargon during her undergraduate degree. She believes in accessible information and aspires to such a goal herself. Morganne is interested in how students conceptualize climate change, as well as how such understandings are then acted upon (or not) individually and/or collectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment