Since January 2015, the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University has held the NRF-South African Research Chair in Science Communication (SciCom). SciCom aims to enhance science communication research by understanding the multiplicity of connections between science, society, and communication strategies and technologies.

In the first cycle of the Chair (2015-2021), under the leadership of Prof Peter Weingart, the chair’s research program was divided into two research groups: Science Communication Theory and Science Communication Practice. The Theory stream explored the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological issues referring to the perceptions of science in different populations, impacted by public discourse, cultural and religious belief systems as well as media and digital sources of information. The Practice stream examined the development of communication techniques to effectuate the communication of scientific content to a broader public or to special stakeholder groups.

Since 2022, with the appointment of new Chair, Prof Mehita Iqani, our research agenda has evolved to explore science communication for social justice.

Through an interdisciplinary lens, our focus is on action-research best practice science communication projects, with a special affordance to the possibilities offered by creative modalities, and communications research on social justice issues to which science is central, specifically: 1) climate and the environment, including topics such as urban sustainability, renewable energy and activism; 2) health and happiness, including topics such as vaccine cultures, eco-anxiety, waste and pollution; and 3) inequality and equity; integrating race and gender in the scientific public, ethical consumption and rural communities.

Issues-driven research in these areas allows the Chair to contribute theoretical and empirical insights into the complex ways in which communication research and practice can connect science and society.