In Conversation With Joel Adriano, Regional Coordinator of SciDev.Net

Adriano believes that it’s one thing to hone your journalistic skills, but it’s quite another to learn and write about science.

AsianScientist (Nov. 10, 2016) – Good science communications in the Philippines is crucial, as the country is constantly on the receiving end of natural disasters such as typhoons.

Joel Adriano, regional coordinator at international science and technology news outfit SciDev.Net, tells Asian Scientist Magazine about what it’s like to be a science communicator in the Philippines, where interest in science is steadily growing, and where everyone still hates the slow internet.

  1. Could you briefly describe your role as regional coordinator at SciDev.Net?

    As regional coordinator, I’m basically like an assistant director in charge of a specific region, in my case, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. We are now expanding to an Asia Pacific desk by mid-November—we are merging my region with the South Asia desk.

    I handle the day-to-day operations of the regional desk, from news pitches and giving out assignments, to editing and posting of articles. I also write stories, especially when I’m attending events.

    I’m also in charge of networking, marketing, syndication, promotion and generating funding for the regional office, and the administrative work for the region.

  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being based in the Philippines, with regards to your role as regional coordinator?

    One clear advantage is that there is already a pool of science writers who have a very good command of English. This makes recruiting freelance writers and team members easier than when we first started.

    Moreover, science officials in the country are generally free of politics, making it easy to approach them without going through the bureaucratic hassle, and making the coverage of local topics easier.

    However, while the country has lots of science writers and officials who are easy to approach, there are actually very few science stories that are worthy of news space at the international level.

    An even bigger disadvantage is the very slow internet in the Philippines, which is often described as one of the worst in the world. While fast internet service is available, it is rather expensive—more expensive than in our UK office if you consider the same speed.

  3. How has your previous expertise in environmental science shaped the way you approach writing about it?

    It provided me a deeper understanding of the issues, which is quite useful when handing out assignments, deciding on pitches, and editing articles. My technical background has made me appreciate and comprehend science topics and issues from a scientific and technical perspective as well, enabling me to avoid the emotional traps associated with certain thorny issues, like those involving genetically modified organisms and climate change.

  4. Adriano at an editorial meeting with colleagues at Science and Development Network (
    Adriano at an editorial meeting with colleagues at the Science and Development Network (

  5. What are some challenges that you face when communicating science to the public?

    The main challenge is how to make science interesting for the public, so as to capture their interest, stimulate discussions and build support. There is a general perception that science topics can be very technical or limited to interest groups. You need to help them realize that science impacts their everyday lives, and allows them to make informed decisions and choices. A perfect example is making an informed decision on vaccination when presented with good science.

    Moreover, science can be both exciting and entertaining given all the uncertainties, wonderful discoveries and innovations, which, hopefully, would stir enough interest among the younger generation to take up science courses.

  6. In your opinion, is the awareness of environmental issues growing in the Philippines and the region, and if not, how can we do our part to raise awareness?

    There is certainly an increasing awareness of environmental issues in the region. There are now plenty of laws and research geared towards green ideas, improving the environment, and the efficient use of resources. Fishermen have become more aware of the need for sustainable fishing methods to preserve their livelihood. There are more stringent measures against pollution from motor vehicles and factories. Governments have become more vigilant of mining activities, and that segregation is becoming a norm in most parts. These are just but a few examples, and the media has certainly played a key role on these developments.

    However, despite the awareness, concrete actions have materialized very slowly in many cases. For instance, the haze issue still persists despite so many studies, laws, discussions and decisions.

  7. What is one piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring science journalists in Asia and beyond?

    It’s one thing to hone your journalistic skills, but it’s another to learn and write about science. This means that one needs to read a lot and keep abreast of the latest research, development, innovations and issues involving science, which can be daunting because science covers a broad spectrum from basic sciences to technology, environment, health, education and many others.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Joel Adriano.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Coming from a design background, Filzah brings a fresh perspective to science communications. She is particularly interested in healthcare and technology.

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