ISBN 9781928502036
Pages 236
Dimensions 234 x 156 mm
Illustrations B/W Illustrations
Published 2020
Publisher African Minds Publishers, South Africa
Format Paperback

Science Communication 
in South Africa

Reflections on Current Issues

edited by Peter Weingart, Marina Joubert, Bankole Falade

Why do we need to communicate science? Is science, with its highly specialised language and its arcane methods, too distant to be understood by the public? Is it really possible for citizens to participate meaningfully in scientific research projects and debate? Should scientists be mandated to engage with the public to facilitate better understanding of science? How can they best communicate their special knowledge to be intelligible? These and a plethora of related questions are being raised by researchers and politicians alike as they have become convinced that science and society need to draw nearer to one another.

Once the persuasion took hold that science should open up to the public and these questions were raised, it became clear that coming up with satisfactory answers would be a complex challenge. The inaccessibility of scientific language and methods, due to ever increasing specialisation, is at the base of its very success. Thus, translating specialised knowledge to become understandable, interesting and relevant to various publics creates particular perils. This is exacerbated by the ongoing disruption of the public discourse through the digitisation of communication platforms. For example, the availability of medical knowledge on the internet and the immense opportunities to inform oneself about health risks via social media are undermined by the manipulable nature of this technology that does not allow its users to distinguish between credible content and misinformation.

In countries around the world, scientists, policy-makers and the public have high hopes for science communication: that it may elevate its populations educationally, that it may raise the level of sound decision-making for people in their daily lives, and that it may contribute to innovation and economic well-being. This collection of current reflections gives an insight into the issues that have to be addressed by research to reach these noble goals, for South Africa and by South Africans in particular.

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About the Editors

Peter Weingart

Prof. Peter Weingart is the South African Research Chair in Science Communication at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Science Policy at Bielefeld University in Germany and former director of the Institute for Science and Technology Studies as well as of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) at that university. He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences as well as the German Academy of Engineering Sciences (acatech). Current research interests include science advice to politicians, science-media interrelations, and science communication. He assumed the editorship of MINERVA in 2007 and is managing editor of the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook. He has published numerous monographs and articles on the sociology of science, on science policy, and on science, media and the public. 

Marina Joubert

Marina Joubert is a senior science communication researcher at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, where she is part of a research team associated with the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Science Communication.

Bankole Falade

Bankole Falade is a researcher with the South Africa Research Chair in Science Communication, Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University.