Medellín to host next World Conference of Science Journalists

By Jim Glade July 12, 2019
Members of the
Colombian Association of Science Journalism and Communication in Lausanne, Switzerland

Last week in Lausanne, Switzerland, it was announced that Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, will host the 2021 World Conference of Science Journalists. 

This will be the second time that the conference, organized by the World Federation of Science Journalists, will be held in Latin America, and the first time it will be held in Colombia.

“Latin America will occupy a central place in the strengthening of ties, uniting diverse groups and the production of significant networks in journalism and scientific communication,” said Ximena Serrano, President of the Colombian Association of Science Journalism and Communication (ACPC). “It will be a pleasure to welcome more than 1,500 scientific journalists from 83 countries of the world to Colombia. Let them get to know Medellín, the ‘City of Eternal Spring,’ a modern and innovative city, and global center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” she said after the biennial event.

Colombia’s Scientific Potential

The second most biodiverse country on Earth, Colombia’s 311 contiental and coastal ecosystems provide unparalleled natural laboratories, and the government has been pushing to open up highly biodiverse regions previously unreachable to scientists and economic development because of Colombia’s armed conflict. 

Despite these natural characteristics that attract scientists from around the globe, Colombia struggles with policy and infrastructure improvements to promote its own scientific research. According to Nature, Colombia invests 0.67% of its gross domestic product in science and technology, compared with 2.8% in the United States, and research has been slowed by government bureaucracy and the lack of laboratories equipped for advanced experiments. 

However, it appears the country is turning a corner. “Colombia is already having a moment in science history,” Serrano told The Bogotá Post. She points to President Iván Duque’s recent announcement of the formation of a Science Ministry, which would put an advocate for science in the President’s cabinet, as well as the government’s pledge to implement long-term planning recommendations from a brain trust made up of international and national scientists.

She sees the conference being held in Medellín as another vehicle for advancement. “We hope that by shining a spotlight on science journalism and science communication – museums, theater, art, etc. – we will inspire a new generation of Colombians to engage with science, whether they go on to study it or not,” said Serrano. “If there is more knowledge and passion for science in the general population, this will help lawmakers to pass more and better science policy.” 

Carlos Vives’ Role in Winning the Bid

The winning proposal, designed and delivered in Lausanne by ACPC members Ximena Serrano, Andrew Wight and Tania Valbuena, highlighted the need to showcase scientific work in the “global south” and Spanish-speaking countries. According to ACPC, the objective is to use the Colombian context to talk about global challenges and solutions in fields such as: biodiversity, inclusiveness, building peace with science and cultural alliance. 

The team credits their winning bid to the creativity of their proposal, which included video from the Greater Medellín Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as a live salsa performance by ACPC members in front of the committee, set to Carlos Vives’ “La Tierra del Olvido.” 

“From the Amazon, right to the Guajira

I know how long the route is, but the mountain inspires

From south to north, from west to east

My Colombia is growing and that’s how it feels” 

Carlos Vives sang those words in Spanish in that 2015 Vallenato hit. In terms of international scientific recognition, it appears his Colombia is growing as well.