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Jan 18, 2023 Article
`Pandem-icons' — exploring the characteristics of highly visible scientists during the Covid-19 pandemic

by Marina Joubert, Lars Guenther, Jenni Metcalfe, Michelle Riedlinger, Anwesha Chakraborty, Toss Gascoigne, Bernard Schiele, Ayelet Baram-Tsabari, Dmitry Malkov, Eliana Fattorini, Gema Revuelta, Germana Barata, Jan Riise, Justin T. Schröder, Maja Horst, Margaret Kaseje, Marnell Kirsten, Martin W. Bauer, Massimiano Bucchi, Natália Flores, Orli Wolfson and Tingjie Chen

The Covid-19 pandemic escalated demand for scientific explanations and guidance, creating opportunities for scientists to become publicly visible. In this study, we compared characteristics of visible scientists during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic (January to December 2020) across 16 countries. We find that the scientists who became visible largely matched socio-cultural criteria that have characterised visible scientists in the past (e.g., age, gender, credibility, public image, involvement in controversies). However, there were limited tendencies that scientists commented outside their areas of expertise. We conclude that the unusual circumstances created by Covid-19 did not change the phenomenon of visible scientists in significant ways.

Volume 22 • Issue 01 • 2023

Sep 21, 2022 Conference Review
#ecsite2022 — a festive and reflexive gathering of science communicators

by Vanessa Mignan and Marina Joubert

The 2022 Ecsite conference took place in Heilbronn, Germany, from 2–4 June after two years of virtual meetings due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This review presents some highlights of this event, including two memorable keynote talks by disability activist Sinéad Burke and author/educator Lucy Hawking.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Aug 22, 2022 Article
Increasingly polarised or finding common ground? Exploring pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric on two South African Facebook pages

by Karien Connoway, Hannah Keal, Milandré van Lill and Marina Joubert

We investigated pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric on two South African Facebook pages to identify the nature, sources and justifications of the vaccine-related claims published on these pages. Our dataset consisted of 440 Facebook posts made by page administrators during 2019. Statements related to the safety and necessity of vaccines dominated the pro-vaccine page, while the anti-vaccine page focussed primarily on claims about the dangers of vaccines. Posts on both pages frequently contained content shared from within Facebook, with much of the content originating from the United States. Both pages made equal use of scientific justifications (i.e. published journal articles) to support claims, and most of these articles were published in accredited journals. The authors hope that a better understanding of the nature, sources and justifications of pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric may lead to more constructive dialogue about vaccines, including the ongoing debate about COVID-19 vaccines.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Apr 11, 2022 Editorial
Welcome message from the new editorial duo

by Michelle Riedlinger and Marina Joubert

In this editorial, we reflect on our new roles as Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Editor of JCOM. We acknowledge the work of previous editors of JCOM, the Editorial Office and the wider JCOM community who have contributed to the success of the journal. We introduce the new Editorial Board and future directions for the journal, and we encourage suggestions from authors, reviewers and readers for taking the journal forward.

Volume 21 • Issue 03 • 2022

Dec 14, 2020 Article
The COVID-19 mirror: reflecting science-society relationships across 11 countries

by Jenni Metcalfe, Michelle Riedlinger, Martin W. Bauer, Anwesha Chakraborty, Toss Gascoigne, Lars Guenther, Marina Joubert, Margaret Kaseje, Susana Herrera-Lima, Gema Revuelta, Jan Riise and Bernard Schiele

Twelve researchers from 11 countries used autoethnographic techniques, keeping diaries over 10 weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, to observe and reflect on changes in the role and cultural authority of science during important stages of viral activity and government action in their respective countries. We followed arguments, discussions and ideas generated by mass and social media about science and scientific expertise, observed patterns and shifts in narratives, and made international comparisons. During regular meetings via video conference, the participating researchers discussed theoretical approaches and our joint methodology for reflecting on our observations. This project is informed by social representations theory, agenda-setting, and frames of meaning associated with the rise and fall of expertise and trust. This paper presents our observations and reflections on the role and authority of science in our countries from March 10 to May 31, 2020. This is the first stage of a longer-term project that aims to identify, analyse and compare changes in science-society relationships over the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Volume 19 • Issue 07 • 2020 • Special Issue: COVID-19 and science communication, Part II, 2020

Dec 14, 2020 Article
Spikey blobs with evil grins: understanding portrayals of the coronavirus in South African newspaper cartoons in relation to the public communication of science

by Marina Joubert and Herman Wasserman

This study explores how South African newspaper cartoonists portrayed the novel coronavirus during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We show how these cartoons respond to the socio-economic and cultural contexts in the country. Our analysis of how cartoonists represent the novel coronavirus explain how they create meaning (and may influence public sentiments) using colour, morphological characteristics and anthropomorphism as visual rhetorical tools. From a total population of 497 COVID-19-related cartoons published in 15 print and online newspapers from 1 January to 31 May 2020, almost a quarter (24%; n=120) included an illustration of the coronavirus. Viruses were typically coloured green or red and attributed with human characteristics (most often evil-looking facial expressions) and with exaggerated, spikey stalks surrounding the virus body. Anthropomorphism was present in more than half of the 120 cartoons where the virus was illustrated (58%; n=70), while fear was the dominant emotional tone of the cartoons. Based on our analysis, we argue that editorial cartoons provide a useful source to help us understand the broader discursive context within which public communication of science operates during a pandemic.

Volume 19 • Issue 07 • 2020 • Special Issue: COVID-19 and science communication, Part II, 2020

Oct 14, 2019 Editorial
Storytelling: the soul of science communication

by Marina Joubert, Lloyd Davis and Jenni Metcalfe

There is a renewed interest amongst science communication practitioners and scholars to explore the potential of storytelling in public communication of science, including to understand how science storytelling functions (or could fail) in different contexts. Drawing from storytelling as the core theme of the 2018 conference of the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Network, we present a selection of papers, essays and practice insights that offer diverse perspectives. Some contributions focus on the cultural and structural qualities of science stories and its key success factors, while others explore new formats, platforms and collaborators in science storytelling activities.

Volume 18 • Issue 05 • 2019 • Special Issue: Stories in Science Communication, 2019

Oct 14, 2019 Practice Insight
Telling stories in science communication: case studies of scholar-practitioner collaboration

by Michelle Riedlinger, Luisa Massarani, Marina Joubert, Ayelet Baram-Tsabari, Marta Entradas and Jenni Metcalfe

Reflecting on the practice of storytelling, this practice insight explores how collaborations between scholars and practitioners can improve storytelling for science communication outcomes with publics. The case studies presented demonstrate the benefits of collaborative storytelling for inspiring publics, promoting understanding of science, and engaging publics more deliberatively in science. The projects show how collaboration between scholars and practitioners [in storytelling] can happen across a continuum of scholarship from evaluation and action research to more critical thinking perspectives. They also show how stories of possible futures and community efficacy can support greater engagement of publics in evidence-informed policymaking. Storytelling in collaborations between scholars and practitioners involves many activities: combining cultural and scientific understandings; making publics central to storytelling; equipping scientists to tell their own stories directly to publics; co-creating stories; and retelling collaborative success stories. Collaborative storytelling, as demonstrated in these case studies, may improve the efficacy of science communication practice as well as its scholarship.

Volume 18 • Issue 05 • 2019 • Special Issue: Stories in Science Communication, 2019

Aug 05, 2019 Conference Review
WCSJ2019: scaling new heights in Switzerland

by Marina Joubert

At a time when science is perceived to be under attack and our planet is facing severe challenges, the role of science journalism in taking on these challenges was a key theme of the 11th World Conference of Science Journalists. But, while policymakers and science leaders are urging journalists to help restore public trust in science, science journalists are concerned about the future viability of their profession in the face of faltering business models in mainstream media.

Volume 18 • Issue 04 • 2019