Investigating the Communicating of Science

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Abstract

This study investigates the challenges and potential pathways for improved science communication, particularly in regards to research on the topic of smallholder food security and for science being generated by universities in sub-Saharan Africa. Questions asked in this study include those that aim to identify the academic substrate from which a university based in Africa must navigate. It also identifies limitations and opportunities for those institutions and for researchers who actively seek to have an impact on smallholder food security. Finally, it seeks to identify where improvements can be made in order to enhance science-based decision-making in this field.
Based on this study, we can see that there are a number of focal actors and agendas to which universities in sub-Saharan Africa must work in concert with, and that there are a number of umbrella organizations in Africa with the intention of creating synergies and networks for knowledge exchange. RUFORUM is identified as an umbrella organization that is particularly wellsituated to be of good support for universities and researchers engaged in questions of food
security. Using webometrics I identified top-performing universities in sub-Saharan Africa, which I then overlapped with the member universities of RUFORUM to identify candidates for closer investigation. Communication channels from universities vary greatly, as one would expect, and strategies range from the creation of a separate campus with the mandate of linking science with local society, to embracing the role of social media in targeting a wider audience, to engaging with existent international research systems such as that of the CGIAR where appropriate.
There is a range of challenges to science communication. Some are generalizable to academia at large, such as skewed merit-based systems favoring academic journal publications, limited funding, and the tricky business of reaching out from academia or one’s own discipline while still maintaining credibility. Specific to academia in Africa is the historical pendulum swing of the role and priority given to higher education as well as limiting infrastructure and inadequate national commitment to research. We can see that different strategies for overcoming challenges can work and there is no one ‘right’ way. The agendas of international bodies such as the World Bank and other funding agencies do affect the trajectories and priorities of universities, thus creating both a challenge but also a point of entry for the promotion and resource support for articulate scientific communication for multiple audiences, as part of the academic curriculum and measurements of success as an academician. With such a transformation, the communication of science can become not only the means to a goal (that is, to help attain sustainable smallholder food security) but as a goal in itself, giving university researchers the capacities and opportunities to find meaning and satisfaction in their work by contributing to the wider society.

Detaljer

Författare
Enheter & grupper
Forskningsområden

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Kommunikationsvetenskap
  • Jordbruksvetenskap
  • Livsmedelsvetenskap
Originalspråkengelska
Antal sidor35
ISBN (elektroniskt)978-91-576-9742-4
StatusPublished - 2020 apr 16
PublikationskategoriForskning