Science communication in the developing world


Science communication is today a well-established ―although young― area of research. However, there are only a few books and papers analyzing how science communication has developed historically. Aiming to, in some way, contribute to filling this gap, JCOM organized this special issue on the History of Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST), joining 15 contributions, from different parts of the globe. The papers published in this issue are organized in three groups, though with diffuse boundaries: geography, media, and discipline. The first group contains works that deal descriptively and critically with the development of PCST actions and either general or specific public policies for this area in specific countries. A second set of papers examines aspects of building science communication on TV or in print media. The third group of papers presents and discusses important PCST cases in specific areas of science or technology at various historical moments.


The research field of science communication is fairly neglected in South Africa. The university system in South Africa, with a few exceptions, pays scant attention to the teaching of science communication, leading to limited academic knowledge of this research field with its rich history and philosophical relations. This paper explores some of the reasons behind this neglect of science communication in South Africa and will argue and demonstrate that, primarily, two political systems can be identified as having had a profound impact on the lesser attention given to this research field; the ‘divide and rule’ system of British colonialism and the Afrikaner National Party ‘apartheid’ system of racial segregation.


Research in the field of science communication started emerging about 50 years ago and has since then matured as a field of academic enquiry. Early findings about research-active authors and countries reveal that scholarly activity in the field has traditionally been dominated by male authors from English-speaking countries in the West. The current study is a systematic, bibliographic analysis of a full sample of research papers that were published in the three most prominent journals in the field from 1979 to 2016. The findings reveal that early inequities remain prevalent, but also that there are indications that recent increases in research outputs and trends in authorship patterns ― for example the growth in female authorship ― are beginning to correct some of these imbalances. Furthermore, the current study verifies earlier indications that science communication research is becoming increasingly institutionalised and internationalised, as demonstrated by an upward trend in papers reflecting cross-institutional collaboration and the diversity of countries where authors are based.


This issue sees the publication of several papers that contribute to our understanding of the challenges faced by researchers in communicating about their research, adding richness to our understanding of practices and policies in Zimbabwe as well as amongst non-Anglophone speakers working in Australia. The potential of incorporating documentary filmmaking tools and techniques into open science projects raises interesting questions about subjectivity, data and the collaboration skills needed for today's scientists.


This study of the science communication views and practices of African researchers ― academics at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe ― reveals a bleak picture of the low status of public science engagement in the developing world. Researchers prioritise peer communication and pay little attention to the public, policy makers and popular media. Most scientists believe the public is largely not scientifically literate or interested in research. An unstable funding environment, a lack of communication incentives and censoring of politically sensitive findings further constrain researchers' interest in public engagement. Most NUST academics, however, are interested in science communication training. We suggest interventions that could revive and support public science engagement at African universities.


This paper contains an overview of the programmes currently existing in Latin America to train science communicators. For such purpose, only postgraduate courses held regularly were considered in the study. Twenty-two programmes meeting such requirement were identified in five countries, 65% of which were in fact established over the past ten years. They present a lot of diversity in terms of admittance requirements, goals, contents, approaches, duration and graduation requirements. However, all of them share the same effort, aiming to offer specific contents in the area of science communication.


Throughout the second half of the twentieth century a varied collection of pressure mechanisms were deployed from nuclear technology exporting countries — mainly from the US — to obstruct the development of a group of semi-peripheral countries’ autonomous nuclear capabilities. Argentina was part of this group. This article focuses on how “fear” of nuclear proliferation was used by US foreign policy as one of the most effective political artifacts to construct and protect an oligopolistic nuclear market.
Spread by the press and by some prestigious social science sectors from the US and some European countries, a persistent and dense discourse production was devoted over several decades to the bizarre practice of “calculating” the alleged hidden intentions of those semi-peripheral countries which aspired to dominate as many technologies of the nuclear
fuel cycle as possible.


The study investigated the extent to which transmission and cognition, the first two stages in the research use process, are accomplished for winemakers. “Transmission-cognition” was operationalized as the frequency of engagement with information sources considered to be carriers of scientific research. The study also investigated the prominence of four types of research use among winemakers (conceptual, symbolic, instrumental and persuasive) together with their inter-relationship. Conceptual use of scientific information was reported by 90% of winemakers and is a precursor to the other types of research use. Findings are discussed with reference to knowledge creep and the dissemination of scientific research through central winemakers acting as nodes in social networks.


We analyse the science and technology news reports covered by the Jornal Nacional, the Brazilian newscast with the largest audience, which is broadcast at prime time on a free-to-air channel. The constructed week methodology was used to compose a sample of 72 newscasts, representative of an entire year (from April 2009 to March 2010): 77 science and technology news reports were thus identified, occupying an average of 7.3% of the newscast's daily broadcasting time, and therefore giving evidence that such matters belong on the JN's agenda. Content analysis has enabled us to observe the following: most reports were focused on announcing research results; the main fields dealt with were medical science and health; the coverage of national research projects ranked highest; researchers and scientific institutes represented the main sources of the news items; scientists were mostly shown in their offices, and as far as interviews are concerned female scientists were a minority. The approach to science was more positive than negative and controversial aspects were scarcely explored.


This article presents key results of a ten-year study of media coverage of agricultural biotechnology in the Philippines, the only country in Asia to date to approve a biotech food/feed crop (Bt corn) for commercialization. The top three national English newspapers – Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Philippine Star were analyzed to determine patterns of media attention measured by coverage peaks, tone, source of news, keywords, and media frames used. Biotechnology news was generally positive but not high in the media agenda. News coverage was marked by occasional peaks brought about by drama and controversial events which triggered attention but not long enough to sustain interest. The study provides a glimpse into the role of mass media in a developing country context. It shows how a complex and contentious topic is integrated into the mainstream of news reporting, and eventually evolves from an emotional discourse to one that allows informed decision making.


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