Masters Degrees (Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST))

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    Science communication vs. public relations : the potential effect of university press releases and the changing media landscape on science journalism in South Africa
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2019-04) Heyl, Ansa; Joubert, Marina; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST)
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The news media has always played an important role in informing the public about scientific and technological developments, with some studies showing that the majority of the public get their information about science from the mass media (Ashwell, 2016). In today's rapidly changing news environment, it however often happens that university press releases on important discoveries are published verbatim, raising the question of whether this still constitutes science journalism or rather just a public relations exercise. South African newsrooms are of course not exempt from the sweeping changes that have characterised the media landscape worldwide, which means that journalists now have less time available to produce more content. The current media environment will also likely continue to make the practice of critical science journalism even more difficult in the future and uncritical communication of scientific results might tend to erode trust in science. In this study, an attempt was made to see how press releases issued by universities are used in the popular media in South Africa. The results show that half of the media articles analysed had a similarity of 50% or higher to original press releases issued by the four South African research universities included in the study. Qualitative analyses of the media articles and press releases also revealed that, with the exception of one article, none of the published articles contained any indication of research results being critically evaluated before publication. In addition, it was found that the source of the information contained in the articles is often obscured, or it is insinuated that a journalist at the publication produced the article, especially when content received from the institution is published virtually verbatim. This implies a lack of transparency on the side of the media outlet, which could erode the trust relationship between the publication and its audience, and ultimately trust in science itself. The high degree of similarity between the published articles and the lack of critical evaluation on the side of media outlets, could serve as evidence of a changed role of journalists from critically evaluating information received to one where they merely serve as processors of supplied information. It could also be interpreted as an indication that publishers view the institutions/universities included in the study as authoritative sources of information. The implication of these results for science communication in South Africa is that communications and public relations practitioners at universities have to realise the extent of their responsibility towards practicing and promoting good science communication in the country, so they can take up the responsibility and help bridge the growing gap between science and the media.
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    For sustainable funding and fees, the undergraduate system in South Africa must be restructured
    (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2016) Cloete, Nico
    South Africa has the most diverse and differentiated higher education system in Africa – despite some persistent attempts at academic drift and mimetic normative isomorphism. Globally, in the 2008 country system ranking by the Shanghai JiaoTong Academic Ranking of World Universities, the South African higher education system was placed in the range between 27 and 33 along with the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Ireland. It is well known that South Africa consistently has four of the five African universities that appear in the Shanghai top 500.