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Christina Scott, doyenne of African science journalism, dies

Christina Scott, a pioneering science journalist from South Africa and the much-loved and hugely admired editor of Research Africa, died tragically on 31 October 2011 in Cape Town.

Christina was the doyenne of South Africa’s science journalists. She was an author, a broadcaster, anti-apartheid campaigner and humanitarian. From 1994 to 2004 she was science editor at SABC covering both TV and radio. She was also the author of a biography of Nelson Mandela, ‘Nelson Mandela: A Force For Freedom’.

Karen Bruns, Research Africa’s chief operating officer based in Cape Town says: “Christina joined the staff of Research Africa in May 2010 and led the transformation of our news service. Her passing away has shocked us all. She was an inspirational colleague and our thoughts and our prayers are with her children Ben (9), Alexandra (13), and Nozipho (19).”

Offering her condolences to Christina’s family, friends and colleagues, South Africa’s science minister Naledi Pandor said Christina was “a good friend of science” who had helped her department a great deal with its work to popularise science.

Christina Scott will be remembered for many things. The thread which joined them together was a passion for people. Christina was committed to training and working with younger generations of science writers and broadcasters. Countless journalists from across the African continent had the opportunity to work with her during her two years as launch Africa news editor at the online news service SciDev.Net. At the same time she volunteered her time to a mentoring scheme for science journalists globally, run by the World Federation of Science Journalists.

In an editorial published on 1 November, David Dickson, SciDev.Net’s founder and director said that she was passionate about science, but also passionate about communicating it to policymakers and the public. He described a memorable moment in which she was about to address the final plenary of the World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne, Australia, in 2007, on the topic: Reporting Science in Emerging Economies.

“As she walked up to the podium, the lights went out, at which point she lit and held up a cigarette lighter. This, she explained to her audience, represented the situation facing many science journalists in the developing world, dealing with frequent power outages, low literacy levels and a lack of government support.”

In an online tribute ‘One Less Star in Africa Tonight’, Mike Shanahan, communications officer for the International Institute for Environment and Development based in London said that Christina’s memory and her passion will live on through the work of her many students and colleagues:

“She was a tiny, straight-talking, fact-demanding package of endless energy, an adventurer with a lust for life, an endless fountain of stories, a kind woman whose humility spoke right from her eyes. Eyes that always twinkled with youthful rebellion.”

He added: “Many journalists have been lucky enough to work with Christina more closely. Together they now speak to millions of people. As they do, I hope Christina’s lessons linger. She was a mother of science journalism and we, her many adopted children, can honour her in the stories we tell.”