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In memoriam: Christina Scott

This edition of Research Africa is dedicated to the memory of Christina Scott, pioneering science journalist from South Africa and the much-loved and hugely admired editor of Research Africa, who died tragically on 31 October 2011 in Cape Town.

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

Christina was remembered at a memorial on Saturday 5 November in Cape Town where friends, family and colleagues congregated in Cape Town to celebrate her life and to read greetings and wishes from all over the world.

The gathering gave Christina a warrior’s send-off by singing ‘Hamba kahle’—go well in Zulu—as a tribute to Christina’s tireless fight against injustice, corruption and obfuscation of the truth.

Christina’s three children paid their mother an emotional musical tribute. A minute’s silence—a word that Christina abhorred—was forfeited for 30 seconds of noise to remember her life. Christina’s mother, who had flown in from Canada, blew a vuvuzela for her daughter.

The gathering also attracted admirers of Christina who had never met her in person at all. An old man said that he had listened to her radio programme and had always wanted to write her a letter. He wanted to tell her that she had managed what his high school teachers had never managed—get him to understand science. Now it was too late, he said. An elderly woman shared the same story.

Christina Scott will be remembered for her love of people. She 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.

Christina’s friends and colleagues at Research Africa are still reeling at the news of Christina’s death.

Karen Bruns, the chief operating officer at Research Africa, said “In dealing with researchers, scientists and project managers, who are often out of their depth when it comes to promoting and disseminating their research, Christina was very clear.”

“She once e-mailed me the quote by Albert Einstein in which he said: ‘if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’. Whenever we received incomprehensible statements or irritated response to our many questions from the newsroom staff, Christina would refer to this quote and remind me that she saw our role as ‘helping’ researchers and scientists to understand their subject better. By which I deduced, helping to disseminate their messages better to the public at large.”

“Christina possessed an outstanding ability to take an abstract concept or idea and produce an excellent series of feature articles that added value to the work of researchers and research managers across the continent. I will certainly miss our robust discussions on the various research and innovation management campaigns that we worked on together,” said Shaun Stuart, the marketing and customer care manager at Research Africa.

Munyaradzi Makoni, a regular Research Africa contributor, writes: “I was one of the lucky few who had you standingbehind my back tellng me to do things the right way. I guess I was one of your successful experiments in transforming ordinary journalists to tune their passion for science. I give you all the tribute.”

Anne Taylor, the editorial and production coordinator at Research Africa, said, “I could not have received better training in the field of science journalism. People that knew Christina Scott will most likely be aware of her intense dislike of acronyms and jargon as well as her passion for clear communication in science journalism. She believed that everyone was capable of understanding science if it was made accessible.”

“Christina, you did so much for us and South Africa. Thank you. You will be missed but not forgotten,” said Alexandra Orford, the project manager of Work Package Six of A Network for the Coordination and Advancement of Sub-Saharan Africa-EU Science and Technology Cooperation (CAAST-Net) project, based at the Research Africa offices.

“Christina was special in many ways. Although I’ve only worked with her for nine months, her compassion and her love for life made a mark in mine. I will miss her questions especially the ones she deemed as ‘stupid’ and yet she was so knowledgeable. I will treasure the time spent with her and will always remember her wonderful sense of humour. Rest in Peace Christina Scott,” said Fatima Samsodien, project administrator at Research Africa.

“Christina was such a wonderful person inside. I can remember her trying to practice her French any time we had an opportunity to and she could throw lines that made every one laugh, mostly if she want to find out who she got to be kind to. After her beautiful memorial, I guess we all need to take peace in knowing she is in a better place indeed,” said Sean Intiomale, the customer support consultant at Research Africa.

Pfungwa Nyamukachi, the regional sales executive at Research Africa, said, “Rest in peace Christina Scott, I will remember your bright, gloriously colourful personality and spirit! You were wise and shared your insights generously. Thank you for sharing your life with us!”

“Christina lived ubuntu, always making contributions in the communities she was part of and often times making us smile,” said Paul Dantu, the customer support consultant at Research Africa.

“Hamba Kahle Christina I salute you, love Sandy,” said Sandra Prosalendis, a project manager at Research Africa.