“Write to make a difference (and remind yourself of this aim in hard times)”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Khalil A. Cassimally
Khalil A. Cassimally
Where are you based?
Mauritius, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean!
Who do you work for?
I’m a freelance community manager and science writer although I’m currently attached to Nature Publishing Group (NPG) right now. I manage two science blogging networks: Scitable blogs from Nature Education, the educational division of NPG; and SciLogs.com, an international network by German publisher Spektrum der Wissenschaft and NPG.
What type of science communication do you do?
My job as a community manager is to enable bloggers to communicate science to as wide an audience as possible. This basically entails making sure that they have the appropriate tools and services to make their blogging as enjoyable as possible. And also work on strategies to actively get their content to lots of eyeballs.
As a science writer, I started by writing more about science that got me excited. The topics tended to be related to the biological sciences, especially biomedical science—no surprise considering that my academic background is in the biomedical sciences.
I’m now focusing more on science and science policy, especially in Africa. Africa is a giant that’s waking up and its contribution to our collective scientific knowledge is steadily increasing. But importantly, I also want to elicit attention on the various problems that many Africans face—problems that the developing world may have already solved. This disparity in how we put our scientific knowledge to use is, I think, unacceptable. I hope that if more people are aware of it, changes will happen. This is the main reason I am writing more about science and science policy in Africa.
Who is your main audience?
Scitable targets high school and undergrad science students as well as science enthusiasts. SciLogs.com’s audience spans from active scientists to science enthusiasts.
How did you get into it?
I started writing about science since I was 16, I think. A few years later, I joined as a blogger of a Scitable group blog. With time, I took on more responsibilities and there you go. I was really lucky to have Ilona Miko as my editor on Scitable. She really mentored me (still does) and gave me an opening in science communication.
I must say that it was not my intention to get into science communication full time. I initially wanted to be a scientist but after one year of full time research, it was pretty obvious that I was not enjoying doing research nor was I very good at it. Thankfully I was able to turn, what was until then a hobby, into a fulltime thing.
Why do you do it?
I started writing about science because I loved science and I liked writing. So writing about science seemed the natural thing to do. But as I did more work in science communication, I quickly realised that I was involved in a really decent endeavour that spanned way beyond my own life here…
Why do you think science communication is important?
… Pushing science to people has the potential to educate and sensitise them so that they can push policymakers to embrace policies that have a scientific grounding and promote continual scientific research for the good of humanity as a whole.
What do you love about science communication?
Knowing that every piece of writing I do has the potential to change and sensitise, change a mindset and who knows… elicit actual change. That’s the goal science writers should strive for, I think. Try to make a change.
What has been your favourite project?
I’ve enjoyed every project I’ve been involved in. But a real bright mind and I are currently working on an independent project that mixes science, journalism and underdeveloped and developing countries. I’m pretty excited about this.
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
I guess I already answered this question!
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
Write to make a difference (and remind yourself of this aim in hard times).
You can follow Khalil on Twitter at @notscientific