25 June 2024

The German-South African Public Engagement Exchange (PEX) launching this month is a new BMBF funded initiative based in the Public Engagement and Impact Unit of the Museum. PEX will bring together researchers from South Africa and Germany in an innovative leadership and innovation programme focusing on Public Engagement. Public Engagement describes a framework supporting interactions between science and society resulting in mutual benefit, strengthening both the science and empowering society.

The International Fellowship programme will involve 40 Fellows over 2025 and 2026 drawn from both South Africa and Germany. An annual, online, leadership academy for Public Engagement will develop skills and deepen knowledge of Public Engagement practice and theory. Fellows will also co-curate the programme of an annual in person conference, addressing issues of national and international strategy, innovation, and policy in the field of Public Engagement.

The Leadership Programme, alongside research on the personal and institutional outcomes of our programme, will be undertaken in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University. A particular focus will be on the potential of international training, bilateral research partnerships, and how their societal impact can be supported.

In collaboration with our innovation partner, the Hasso Plattner Institute – School of Design Thinking, Potsdam, Germany, the PEX also addresses the subject of innovation in international Public Engagement. Our Fellows will interact with Design Thinking methodologies in innovation projects and will develop new methods for international collaboration and the implementation of public engagement in research together with the HPI d-school.

The German-South African Public Engagement Exchange (PEX) will strengthen the impact of research and public engagement in and between Germany and South Africa by fostering skills, leadership and innovation in engagement practice, thereby maximising the potential and societal applicability of bilateral research partnerships and their outcomes.

Dr Erik Hansalek. Head of Unit, African and Middle East, Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) has said about the initiative,

Public engagement sparks innovation and public involvement in scientific activities. It provides a platform for society and scientists to exchange, to build trust and to provide the foundation for an informed decision-making. That is why we are proud to support bilateral and international projects like those led by Dr Mhairi Stewart of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin to promote a global knowledge exchange.

The design of the Exchange is informed by the findings of a Senior Round Table held in Cape Town in December 2022 in collaboration with the South African Department of Science and Innovation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

This press release has also been published by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin at https://www.museumfuernaturkunde.berlin/en/press/press-releases/german-south-african-public-engagement-exchange.

Enquiries: Prof Marina Joubert at marinajoubert@sun.ac.za