This week RealScientists is being curated by Dyna Rochmyaningsih (@dynablossoms), a Freelance Science Journalist in Indonesia. With a background in behavioural neuroscience and side interests in ecology and evolution of rainforests, Dyna shifted to Science Journalism during the downtimes of being a full time mother. Her stories have appeared mostly in SciDev.Net, a UK-based news outlet that focuses on science in developing countries, as well as other publications such as The Jakarta Post, The Asian Scientist Magazine, The Journal of Young Investigators, Koran Tempo, Mongabay, and recently Science magazine (still in an initial stage, but she wrote a brief news item last week without a byline). In her ‘spare’ time, Dyna is a mentee within the Science Journalism Cooperation (SjCOOP) Asia, which is organised by the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ). Dyna loves science, including its human side, and grew up with a love for philosophy, history, and religion.
Dyna completed our in-coming curator question obstacle course with style and grace:
Why/How did you end up in science?
If science is the act of observing nature, then it was my father who made me fall in love with it. When I was a little, he always asked “why is there a rainbow?”, “why some places could grow diverse plants, why some are not?” “why birds can fly?” Those questions brought me enjoying “sense of wonder” until now. In high school, I like to study biology while reading Jostein Gaarder’s Sophies World. I found that science is one of the best way to give meaning to this life. I took biology in Bogor Agricultural University where I did a research on the ‘Effect of Monday-Thursday Fasting (Islamic fasting) on Working Memory of Adult Human” as my final thesis. It was supervised by a neuroscientist from Kyoto Univeristy and it was published in The Journal of Young Investigator.
Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?
My supervisor in college was an evolutionary biologist and I discussed a lot with him. One day, I asked him about consciousness and other intangible science aspects. He answered, “If all Indonesian think like you, Indonesia will always be left behind,” It was a defining moment. As a developing country, Indonesia needs science that is tangible and could give direct benefit to the society. As a person, I can’t do science for my own passion. So, soon after graduation, I started writing opinion articles about science and its intersection with the society in The Jakarta Post. I wrote articles about how women could do better in politics, Indonesia’s biodiversity, seeing religion from evolutionary perspective, Indonesia’s basic science, etc. Many criticism came along. But from this starting point, many opportunities came along. In 2010, I joined Harvard Summer Course on ecology and evolution of the Borneo rainforest. In 2011, I started writing for SciDev.Net and dived into the world of science journalism. And in 2012, I joined Science Journalism Cooperation (SjCOOP) Asia mentoring program organized by the World Federation of Science Journalist (WFSJ)
Tell us about your work?
I write news articles about science and technology in the developing world. Most of them are related with the environment such as climate change and forestry. I also cover health and science policy. In doing this, I am now working with my mentor, Nicky Phillips, science editor in Sydney Morning Herald. I will tweet much about my published work during my curation days.
Motivation: why should the lay public care about your research/work?
Science journalism in developing countries is extremely important. I just give you an example. Indonesia is now threaten with Lymphatic filariasis. In eliminating this, the government only follows the WHO recommendation and neglecting local scientists research. Without the work of a science journalist, people will not know that Indonesia is doing a useless effort as the region has different kind of filariasis. Here I copy you part of my publication in SciDev.Net:
Taniawati Supali, lead scientist at the parasitology department of the University in Indonesia, says that although her department has published a number of articles about NTDs in recognised international health journals, “We are struggling to have our research findings included in health policy.”
“Instead of listening to local scientists, the Indonesian government tends to merely follow the WHO recommendation for mass drug [treatment],” Supali tells SciDev.Net.
“The global programme should not blindly be applied all over Indonesia without considering the country’s unique conditions. The mass drug administration should be flexible and adjusted to suit our specific characteristics,” says Supali.
In the case of lymphatic filariasis, for example, Supali says the WHO recommendation to administer the drugs once a year will not work because the most common strain of filariasis in Indonesia is caused byBrugia malayi, a kind of worm that has a three-month life cycle. It is different from Wuchereria bancrofti, the dominant strain of filariasis in the world, which has 9-12 months life cycle.
“If we give the drug only once a year, then that would be too late. The worms would then have been transmitted to mosquitoes to spread the disease again,” Supali says.
Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?
I am a full time mother, the most interesting and challenging job in the world…:D
How would you describe your ideal day off?
I like singing with a live piano. I love gathering with my family and share my funny stories with them.
And of course, snuggling with my daughter and my husband.