Nalaka Gunawardene is a wondermentalist at heart. Communicator by choice. Secular humanist by conviction. Lankan by accident of birth. Always curious. Sometimes serious.
The more conventional description is that Nalaka is a science writer and development communicator with 25 years of professional experience in Sri Lanka and Asia. His career has evolved on a ‘non-linear path’ where he has juggled multiple interests on parallel tracks, making it a bit difficult to discern a single composite Nalaka G!
Born and schooled in Sri Lanka, Nalaka initially worked as a journalist with English language newspapers and magazines, and also freelanced on radio and TV. At various times, he has been a news reporter, feature writer, columnist, science editor, foreign correspondent, radio/TV programme host and a TV quizmaster. After winning three national awards for outstanding science journalism, Nalaka moved to the development sector where he has worked as a communication specialist consulting with research institutes and UN agencies like UNEP, UNDP and IUCN.
Parallel to these, Nalaka worked with the late Sir Arthur C Clarke – science fiction writer, futurist and inventor of the communications satellite – as his principal research assistant. This 21-year collaboration with Clarke (1987 to 2008) has given Nalaka unique insights and perspectives on the role of science and technology in development, public communication of science, and the emergence of today’s information society. (NOTE: I NEVER worked with the Sri Lanka government agency named Arthur C Clarke Institute, which is not to be confused with the personal office of Arthur C Clarke, now closed.)
Nalaka continues to explore these issues in his own communication work. He blogs on media, popular culture and development at http://nalakagunawardene.com, and is a columnist or regular contributor to several mainstream media outlets and citizen journalism initiatives in Asia and beyond. In 2011, he returned to Sinhala language journalism with a weekly science/development column for Ravaya independent Sunday newspaper in Sri Lanka.
Nalaka divides his time between technical writing/editing assignments (to earn a living) and working for some non-profit entities (all unpaid, honorary positions). He is a Director of TVE Asia Pacific engaged in communicating sustainable development issues through TV, video and the web. He is on the Boards of Management of Panos South Asia headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal, and the Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net) anchored in London, UK — both committed to nurturing journalism in the public interest. He is on the International Advisory Council of the Arthur C Clarke Foundation in the United States.
Nalaka has travelled widely on work, and is a regular speaker, presenter or moderator at international conferences on topics related to: the public understanding of science and technology; science and environmental journalism; chronicling information society; and communicating research. He also serves on regional or global selection panels for various media awards, and on juries of international film festivals.
Nalaka remains an asker-of-questions, connector-of-dots, and a tireless day-dreamer. He still hasn’t decided what to do if/when he grows up…