In the first cycle of the Chair (2015-2020), under the leadership of Prof Peter Weingart, the chair’s research program was divided into two research groups, one focused on Science Communication Theory and the other on Science Communication Practice. The SciCom Theory stream explored the theoretical, conceptual and methodological issues referring to the perceptions of science in different populations, impacted by cultural and religious belief systems as well as sources of information, such as the mass media and digital communication channels; as well as the structure of the public discourse, trust and distrust in scientific knowledge shaped by media and communication policies. The SciCom Practice stream examined the development of communication techniques to effectuate the communication of scientific content to a broader public or to special stakeholder groups; the survey and evaluation of science communication activities to inform and improve policies; and the development of science communication techniques serves to build capacity in the field.

From 2022, with the appointment of the replacement Chair, the research agenda aims to build on these important achievements. Having established significant work that maps out key theoretical and applied aspects of science communication research in South Africa, the next chapter of work will also seek to explore “science communication for social justice”. Under this research agenda, the focus will be 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; 3) equity and inequality, integrating race and gender in the scientific public, ethical consumption and rural communities.