Universities as beacons of science engagement in society

Moderator:
Dr Thandi Mgwebi
Panellists:
Dr Marina Joubert
Ms Anina Mumm
Ms Mologadi Makwela
Ms Shirona Patel
Munyaradzi Makona

Dr Marina Joubert

Marina Joubert is a science communication researcher at Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Before a career switch to the academic world, she was a science communication manager at the National Research Foundation and ran her own science communication consultancy for ten years. In addition to coordinating and presenting an online science communication course with a focus on Africa, she teaches several modules on public engagement with science as part of an MPhil programme on science and technology studies.

Her research interests focus on scientists’ role in public communication of science, online interfaces between science and society and the changing policy environment for public communication of science in Africa. Marina serves on the executive committee of the global PCST (Public Communication of Science and Technology) network; the editorial board of Science Communication, the global advisory board of the Journal of Science Communication and is a technical editor for Geoscience Communication. In July 2015, she won the (South African) National Science and Technology Forum Award for her contribution to promoting science communication and outreach in the country. She obtained her PhD, on the topic of visible scientists in society, in 2018.

Dr Thandi Mgwebi

Thandi is a research and innovation leader currently serving as Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Engagement at Tshwane University of Technology. She holds a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of Cape Town, a Higher Diploma in Education, a postgraduate degree in Higher Education Management from University of Melbourne, Australia and a certificate in Management Development Programme from the Stellenbosch University Business School. After a postdoctoral research period, she worked at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) as an early-career scientist, and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). In 2008, she joined the National Research Foundation as Director for Human Capacity Development and later as Executive Director for DST-NRF Research Chairs Initiative and Centres of Excellence, the national flagship programmes of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). Before joining TUT, she was Professor and Head of Research at the University of the Western Cape.

Mr Munyaradzi Makona

Munyaradzi Makoni is a freelance science journalist from Zimbabwe who lives in Cape Town. He writes about agriculture, climate change, environment, marine sciences, health, higher education, sustainable development, and science in general. He was Canada’s International Development Research Centre-Research Africa science journalism fellow in 2012. His journalism work has appeared in various media organizations including Africa Renewal, Forskning & Framsteg, Intellectual Property Watch, IPS, SciDev.net, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and University World News among others.

Ms Anina Mumm

Ms Mologadi Makwela

Mologadi specialises in strategic communication and stakeholder engagement, crisis communication, measurement and evaluation, and brand development. She started her career as an intern at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Communication and Marketing Department, moving quickly up the ranks to senior Media Liaison Officer, before joining the Cape Craft and Design Institute in 2014 as a communications officer. Mologadi joined the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security in 2015 where, as communication manager; she developed and implemented the organisation’s communication and reputation management strategies, focused on building partnerships through adopting a collaborative approach to stakeholder management.

This includes coaching or sitting with emerging and senior researchers as a strategic advisor on communication. She also oversees the organisation’s social media, e-communication platforms and website. She’s also held the position of communications consultant for the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape. Mologadi holds an Honours degree in Media Theory and Practice, and a Masters in Political Communication. She’s currently pursuing her PhD in Political Communication at the Department of Film and Media Studies, UCT.

Ms Shirona Patel

Shirona Patel is curious about the world and is passionate about working with smart academics and students to make research and science accessible and understandable to multiple publics. From telling the stories of dung beetles and pre-historic fossils to sharing new knowledge about the stars or HIV/AIDS, she enjoys piquing the interest of ordinary people through new creative technologies like video, animation and virtual reality. As the Head of Communications at the University of the Witwatersrand, she works with researchers in all areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. The commissioning editor of a magazine and digizine called Curios.ty, she encourages everyone to always ask questions.. Shirona has also worked for several global clients in the education, healthcare and finance sectors, across Africa. She edited many publications, including a magazine called Lesea at the age of 22 and worked in community radio for five years (part-time). She was elected as an ambassador for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Africa online community in 2016.

Researchers at research-intensive, publicly-funded universities in South Africa are under increasing pressure to share new knowledge in an open society, as well as to engage in meaningful dialogue with a range of public audiences. They have to find novel ways of making their research more visible, accessible and relevant in the public sphere, as well as to interact with groups outside the academic environment. Join us in this session to explore how universities (and their research staff) are responding to increasing demands for public science engagement. We will ask some hard questions, such as:

  • How are universities using new science engagement tools, and are they effectively engaging with new public and policy audiences?
  • Are universities using science communication as a marketing tool, or are they communicating science with a focus on dialogue and critical engagement with the public?
  • Are universities doing enough in terms of social responsiveness and inclusivity when it comes to public science engagement?
  • Are universities ethical and responsible when it comes to communicating research news?
  • What are the key barriers that continue to limit public science engagement in universities?

As a background to these questions, we will explore how rapid changes in the science communication ecosystem are resulting in innovative science communication tools and novel pathways towards public dialogue. We will share some of the ways that universities – and specific research groups within universities – are engaging with ‘hard-to-reach’ publics.

2018-11-14T18:00:42+00:00