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Using competitions and debates to develop science communication skills Ina Roos & Retha Claasen-Veldsman Using competitions and debates to develop science communication skills Ina Roos & Retha Claasen-Veldsman A business unit of the National Research Foundation

SAASTA stands for… • The mandate of the South African Agency for Science and SAASTA stands for… • The mandate of the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) is to advance public awareness, appreciation and engagement of science, engineering and technology in South Africa.

SAASTA consists of • 3 Core units – Science Education – Science Awareness Platforms SAASTA consists of • 3 Core units – Science Education – Science Awareness Platforms – Science Communication ↓ Competitions: • Young Science Writer’s Competition • SAASTA School Debates • SA Science Lens Competition

SA Science Lens • Photographic competition to communicate science through medium of art • SA Science Lens • Photographic competition to communicate science through medium of art • Took place in 2002 -2007; 2009 • In 2007 partnered with the British Council & Canon • Skills training of young photographers • www. saasta. ac. za/sciencelens

Young Science Writer’s Competition Young Science Writer’s Competition

Young Science Writer’s Competition • Took place in 2005 (400) & 2006 (100) • Young Science Writer’s Competition • Took place in 2005 (400) & 2006 (100) • In 2009 – Young Science Communicators Competition • Open for researchers and registered science students, in all disciplines, aged 20 -35, studying or working at South African Higher Education Institutions. • Aim is to encourage young researchers and science students to write up their research in such a way that it engages and excites the general public.

Young Science Writer’s Competition (cont. ) • Articles judged on suitability for publication in Young Science Writer’s Competition (cont. ) • Articles judged on suitability for publication in the general media • Criteria: – – – – 1. Originality 2. Newsworthiness/News values 3. Creativity 4. Quality of writing 5. Knowledge of research applied 6. Balanced and fair writing 7. Contextualising/whether the writer had a full grasp of the extent of the subject – 8. Analysis of the situation/subject/material.

Young Science Writer’s Competition (cont. ) • Media partner – publishes the three winning Young Science Writer’s Competition (cont. ) • Media partner – publishes the three winning articles and profiles of the winners. • “Writing for the media” training offered to all participants • Exciting prizes – overall winners attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual meeting two years running

Finalists of 2006 Laura Vatta, winner 2005 Deshnie Govender, winner 2006 Finalists of 2006 Laura Vatta, winner 2005 Deshnie Govender, winner 2006

SAASTA Schools Debates • Pilot project in 2007 • In 2008 – 7 provinces SAASTA Schools Debates • Pilot project in 2007 • In 2008 – 7 provinces represented (245 learners in grades 10 -12 and 44 educators) • Goal to enlarge reach and include all 9 provinces • Partnered with the South African Schools Debating Board • Karl Popper style of debating – research and evidence are very important

SAASTA Schools Debates • Topics – Provincial level • Biotechnology: bio fuels, stem cells SAASTA Schools Debates • Topics – Provincial level • Biotechnology: bio fuels, stem cells & cloning, GM foods – National level • International Year of Planet Earth: water, earth observation, earth conservation, megacities and non-renewable resources of Africa

SAASTA Schools Debates • Process: – Partnership with SA Schools Debates Board – All SAASTA Schools Debates • Process: – Partnership with SA Schools Debates Board – All schools provided with information packs on the debating themes – Internal school debates – Training is offered on the debating subjects to learners and teachers – Provincial tournaments – National tournament – More than just debating… engaging with science

SAASTA Schools Debates • All schools provided with information packs – to be used SAASTA Schools Debates • All schools provided with information packs – to be used as a class room resource • Internal debates – wide reach – teachers and parents • Participants in the national round had the opportunity of interaction with scientists, night sky viewing at Observatory and training as British Council Climate Champions • All provincial winners and educators were sponsored on a tour to Sutherland to see SALT

SAASTA Schools Debates Winners, 2008 SAASTA Schools Debates Winners, 2008

John Hobson, SA Science Lens 2007 John Hobson, SA Science Lens 2007

Skills development • Science communication skills – Translate science to be understandable, appropriate and Skills development • Science communication skills – Translate science to be understandable, appropriate and useful for a particular audience – Critical thinking – consider science in context – Effective communication skills – Empowerment

Skills development • Young Science Writers competition – expert to public communication – Exposure Skills development • Young Science Writers competition – expert to public communication – Exposure to science communication – Teach science communication skills through training and participation – Translate science / repackage science – Effective communication skills – Young researchers think about how to communicate their work to the lay person – Exciting science stories get published in the national media

Skills development • School debates – engaging with scientific information – Increased awareness of Skills development • School debates – engaging with scientific information – Increased awareness of science, especially for nonscience learners – Greater appreciation of science and its impact – Improvement of scientific literacy – Increase scientific knowledge/understanding – Development of communication skills – Awareness of career opportunities in areas that support science, such as environmental law – Stimulation of discussion & knowledge sharing

 • “Given that a commonly held goal of science communication is nurturing critical • “Given that a commonly held goal of science communication is nurturing critical thinking and deeper understanding, generating conversations about science can be an important strategic goal for science communication professionals” - (Hwang & Southwell, 2007: 202)

Greater impact of Science Communication Scientific community ↓ Communicating to lay public Non-scientific community Greater impact of Science Communication Scientific community ↓ Communicating to lay public Non-scientific community ↓ Engage with science messages and scientific information

Greater impact of Science Communication Scientific community Non-scientific community ↓ ↓ Communicating to lay Greater impact of Science Communication Scientific community Non-scientific community ↓ ↓ Communicating to lay public Engage with science messages and scientific information

John Hobson, SA Science Lens 2007 John Hobson, SA Science Lens 2007

Practical suggestions • How can competitions be used to cultivate tomorrow’s science communicators? – Practical suggestions • How can competitions be used to cultivate tomorrow’s science communicators? – Photographic competition: Merging of science and art; young scientists get the opportunity to express their work in art form and to communicate in an exciting, innovative manner – Young Science Communicators: Tomorrow’s scientists learn to communicate their work to nonpeers – Debates: Non-science learners engage with science topics; learn about career opportunities that supplement science careers

Practical suggestions Successes – Young Science Writers Competition • Valuable relations forged with media Practical suggestions Successes – Young Science Writers Competition • Valuable relations forged with media partner • Created interest among science students in science communication • Nobel Prize winner demonstrated excellent science communication skills at prize giving • Prize winner won prize for poster at AAAS, USA – School Debates • High level of debating between teams in the finals • Interest shown by participants in science topics

Practical suggestions Concerns – Partnerships – need close monitoring – Delivery e. g. standard Practical suggestions Concerns – Partnerships – need close monitoring – Delivery e. g. standard of training & materials need monitoring – Science Lens: training must be standardised and expanded – Science Writers: • Individual feedback to the participants • Wider participation: greater input from all HEI’s not just the Big 5…

Practical suggestions Recommendations • SAASTA Schools Debates: – Provide better training and assistance with Practical suggestions Recommendations • SAASTA Schools Debates: – Provide better training and assistance with research – Have two members on team that take science at school to assist with research • Young Science Communicators: – Put in extra effort to promote in especially the previously disadvantaged HEIs – Provide even more training for participants – Provide individual feedback to participants as part of training

Conclusion • Competitions – incentives are needed to motivate participation • Participation – engagement Conclusion • Competitions – incentives are needed to motivate participation • Participation – engagement with science communication: communication process (researchers) or the product (learners) • Dual impact – – Personal level – empowerment, greater understanding, informed decision making, various skills, making scientific information accessible – External level – increased scientific literacy, informed decision making

Conclusion Recommendations to Africa’s S&T Consolidated Plan of Action: • A competition is an Conclusion Recommendations to Africa’s S&T Consolidated Plan of Action: • A competition is an effective tool in drawing science and society closer together • Competitions for the youth invite engagement with science • Competitions reach wider than the participants

Thank you very much – Ina Roos SAASTA Tel: 27 12 392 9317 e-mail: Thank you very much – Ina Roos SAASTA Tel: 27 12 392 9317 e-mail: roosi@saasta. ac. za – Retha Claasen-Veldsman SAASTA Tel: 27 12 392 9374 E-mail: retha@saasta. ac. za A business unit of the National Research Foundation