Browsing by Author "Guenther, Lars"
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- ItemIn the footsteps of Einstein, Sagan and Barnard : identifying South Africa’s most visible scientists(Academy of Science of South Africa, 2017) Joubert, Marina; Guenther, LarsHighly visible scientists are increasingly recognised as influential leaders with a special role to play in making science part of mainstream society. Through consultation with a panel of 45 experts working at the science–media interface, we sought to identify the most visible scientists currently living and working in South Africa. In total, 211 scientists – less than 1% of the scientific workforce of the country – were identified as visible in the public sphere. The demographic profile and institutional spread of South Africa’s visible scientists suggest that more should be done to increase the diversity of scientists who are publicly visible. Although only 8% of South Africans are white, 78% of the group of visible scientists were white, and 63% of the visible scientists were men. Only 17 black women were identified as publicly visible scientists. While visible scientists were identified at 42 different research institutions, more than half of the visible scientists were associated with just four universities. Recent controversies surrounding the two most visible South African scientists identified via this study, and the potential implications for fellow scientists’ involvement in public engagement, are briefly discussed.
- ItemMaking the case for biodiversity in South Africa : re-framing biodiversity communications(AOSIS Publishing, 2016) Maze, Kristal; Barnett, Mandy; Botts, Emily A.; Stephens, Anthea; Freedman, Mike; Guenther, LarsBackground: Biodiversity education and public awareness do not always contain the motivational messages that inspire action amongst decision-makers. Traditional messages from the biodiversity sector are often framed around threat, with a generally pessimistic tone. Aspects of social marketing can be used to support positive messaging that is more likely to inspire action amongst the target audience. Objectives: The South African biodiversity sector embarked on a market research process to better understand the target audiences for its messages and develop a communications strategy that would reposition biodiversity as integral to the development trajectory of South Africa. Method: The market research process combined stakeholder analysis, market research, engagement and facilitated dialogue. Eight concept messages were developed that framed biodiversity communications in different ways. These messages were tested with the target audience to assess which were most relevant in a developing-world context. Results: The communications message that received the highest ranking in the market research process was the concept of biodiversity as a ‘national asset’. This frame places biodiversity as an equivalent national priority to other economic and social imperatives. Other messages that ranked highly were the emotional message of biodiversity as ‘our children’s legacy’ and the action-based ‘practical solutions’. Conclusion: Based on the findings, a communications strategy known as ‘Making the case for biodiversity’ was developed that re-framed the economic, emotional and practical value propositions for biodiversity. The communications strategy has already resulted in greater political and economic attention towards biodiversity in South Africa.
- ItemScience communication as a field of research : identifying trends, challenges and gaps by analysing research papers(Sissa Medialab, 2017) Guenther, Lars; Joubert, MarinaResearch in the field of science communication started emerging about 50 years ago and has since then matured as a field of academic enquiry. Early findings about research-active authors and countries reveal that scholarly activity in the field has traditionally been dominated by male authors from English-speaking countries in the West. The current study is a systematic, bibliographic analysis of a full sample of research papers that were published in the three most prominent journals in the field from 1979 to 2016. The findings reveal that early inequities remain prevalent, but also that there are indications that recent increases in research outputs and trends in authorship patterns ― for example the growth in female authorship ― are beginning to correct some of these imbalances. Furthermore, the current study verifies earlier indications that science communication research is becoming increasingly institutionalised and internationalised, as demonstrated by an upward trend in papers reflecting cross-institutional collaboration and the diversity of countries where authors are based.
- ItemA unique fingerprint? Factors influencing attitudes towards science and technology in South Africa(Academy of Science of South Africa, 2016) Guenther, Lars; Weingart, PeterFrom an international perspective, research in the field of public attitudes towards science and technology has been conducted since the 1970s. A frequently proposed – and empirically supported – theory is that strong interest in and knowledge about science in a society is associated with more favourable attitudes towards science. This positive attitude in turn affects support for public funding of science. However, this research field is not without controversy, and for the South African population many questions remain unanswered. Initial research has not explored the factors that shape attitudes towards science and technology in detail. We re-analysed data from the Human Sciences Research Council to explore the above theory. Interestingly, for the South African population, higher levels of scientific literacy and use of information sources are associated with more promises but also more reservations towards science and technology. This is especially true for relatively young and educated survey respondents. In international comparison, South Africa shows a unique fingerprint to some extent, but also shares characteristics with industrially developing countries of Europe (such as Greece or Portugal). To understand the correlations better, future research should aim to examine the overall picture when investigating the diverse South African population more extensively.