Science Communication and Gender

The strategic objectives of this section are aligned with government’s objectives of promoting ‘science and society’ interactions. The section has two distinct but inter-related portfolios – science communication research and gender research; with key research themes including science communication in developing countries, the research policy nexus  and gender dynamics (problems women face in developing countries).  Science communication practice takes place through various public platforms including web portals, researcher-policy maker networks, social media, seminars, workshops, conferences, policy briefs, magazines and newsletters. 

In 2016/17 the strategic objectives of the sub-section will be more closely aligned to the ‘Science Engagement Framework: Science and society engaging to enrich and improve our lives’ published by DST in December 2014 after an extensive consultation process that included inputs from HSRC at various points in the development of the framework.

In this regard the dissemination and knowledge brokering activities of the sub-section will, as relevant and appropriate, find ways of contributing to the following aims of the framework:

Strategic Aim 1: To popularize science, engineering, technology and innovation as attractive, relevant and accessible in order to enhance scientific literacy and awaken interest in relevant careers.
Strategic Aim 2: To develop a critical public that actively engages and participates in the national discourse of science and technology to the benefit of society.
Strategic Aim 3: To promote science communication that will enhance science engagement in South Africa.
Strategic Aim 4: To profile South African science and science achievements domestically and internationally, demonstrating their contribution to national development and global science, thereby enhancing its public standing.

In the context of this strategic framework, the humanities and social science disciplines have a unique contribution to make to:

• Enhancing dialogue on science in public debate;
• Enabling members of the public to have greater confidence in the ways in which scientific insight is applied by government and other sectors;
• Improving the interaction between academic researchers and public policy makers;
• Engaging with the public to strengthen the case for increased funding for the HSS;
• Stimulate greater public interest and enthusiasm for the HSS;
• Contributing to greater public understanding of science and the importance of evidence, and understanding uncertainty; and
• Engaged scholarship which produces co-created, self-reflective knowledge and new formations of community in the process.”(DST, 2014:12)

There is a distinct socio-political imperative linked to science communication which is currently being captured through the development of a theoretical grounding guided by the ‘science and society’ paradigm. Salient features of science communication research can be listed as:

• Science communication (with its protégé as Public Understanding of Science) extends its reach into the global academic research and governance based policy assessment arena.
• Science communication research contributes to the development of government policy under the domains of Research and Development (R&D) and Science and Technology (S&T).
• Science communication research generates new data and, at the same time, depends on established data to inform and guide appropriate research to, in turn, inform policy.

In the 2016/17 period RIA will formal partnerships (local and international) with universities and research organizations that specialize in science communication.