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Women Communicators Trained in Nuclear Science Outreach

14 March 2023
The IAEA’s Women for Nuclear Science Education and Communications (W4NSEC) training course helps female educators and science communication professionals to improve their outreach programmes on nuclear science. It includes sessions on working with the press, developing resources for academic programmes, and promoting ongoing nuclear activities through outreach.

(Photo: Women in Nuclear Peru)Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, workshops were initially conducted online. Participants learned the basics of nuclear science, power, and medicine, as well as how nuclear science and technology contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

So far, 28 women have finished the online part of the programme. Following completion of an online assessment, 16 participants then attended a week-long training course in Vienna from 6–10 February 2023.W4NSEC was organized in cooperation with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). 

“Now, more than ever, as the world turns to science for solutions to the challenges of our time, we need to support women in STEM to harness the full capability of our greatest scientific minds,” said Richard Sadleir, Australian Ambassador to the International Organizations in Vienna.W4NSEC is only one component of the IAEA’s efforts to promote female participation in nuclear science and technology. 

The IAEA’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme awards scholarships to young women interested in pursuing master’s programmes in nuclear related subjects and gives them the chance to complete an internship facilitated by the IAEA. Since its launch in 2020, 360 students have been selected for the programme.  

The Lise Meitner Programme, launched in 2023, provides early- and mid-career women in nuclear with the opportunity to attend a professional development programme ranging from two to four weeks.A key aim of W4NSEC is ensuring accurate reporting and understanding of topics related to nuclear science.

“I hope that your great responsibility to share impartial, unbiased information about the contribution of nuclear science and technology to energy security, human health, food production, water management and environmental protection has been supported and encouraged,” said Hua Liu, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation, addressing W4NSEC participants at the closing session.During the in-person workshop, participants presented the communications strategies that they had put in place using the nuclear science communication skills they learned in the online course. 

Sheila Gbormittah of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority in Ghana described how she was able to facilitate a radio show on nuclear security in Ghana. Radio is a key medium for public information in Ghana.

(Photo: S. Gbormittah, Ghana Nuclear Regulatory Authority)W4NSEC participant Phannee Saengkaew organized an academic programme in Thailand in which students created robots to measure radiation levels.

"The first High-School Student Competition of Radiation Survey Robots in Thailand took place in 2022. Students had previously learned very little about the applications of nuclear technology. This activity inspired them to be more passionate about nuclear science and technology, and robotics are one of the best ways to communicate with young digital generations,” said Phannee Saengkaew of Chulalongkorn University.

(Photo: P. Saengkaew, Chulalongkorn University)W4NSEC participants were able to observe nuclear scientists at work at the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

“These labs and the experimental and applied scientific work performed there are what sets the IAEA apart from the other institutions in the United Nations family,” said Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications. “The IAEA is the only institution with such capacity.”

Here, participants watch a demonstration at the Insect Pest Control Laboratory, known for its work on the Sterile Insect Technique. The eight nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, focus on a wide variety of areas, from food and agriculture to nuclear instrumentation, environmental radiochemistry and dosimetry. 

In this photo, participants visit the Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory to see how nuclear techniques can assist in the optimization of soil and water resources.Participants also visited IAEA technical facilities in the Vienna International Centre and learned about dosimetry — the study of the measurement of radiation doses.The Atominstitut (Institute for Atomic and Subatomic Physics) of the Technical University of Vienna welcomed W4NSEC participants to its TRIGA Mark II research reactor to gain a hands-on understanding of nuclear energy and nuclear physics research.

Participants will go on to promote nuclear science and technology in their home countries through outreach activities.The IAEA is committed to gender equality in the nuclear field and has a range of programmes that support women students and professionals. For more information on gender at the IAEA, visit the IAEA’s dedicated webpage: www.iaea.org/about/overview/gender-at-the-iaea

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