In a series of blog posts we will be introducing the keynote speakers and talks for PCST 2020 Conference in Aberdeen. Our first profile is of Dr Marina Joubert, a senior science communication researcher at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Before a career switch to the academic world, she was a science communication manager at the National Research Foundation in Pretoria, South Africa and ran her own science communication consultancy for ten years.


In addition to coordinating and presenting an online science communication course with a focus on Africa, she teaches several modules on public engagement with science as part of an MPhil programme in science and technology studies. Her research interests focus on scientists’ role in public communication of science, online interfaces between science and society and the changing policy environment for public communication of science in Africa.


Repercussions of the first human heart transplant


At PCST 2020, Marina will reflect on the first human heart transplant that took place in South Africa in 1967, and how this milestone event has affected relationships between medicine, media and society in ways which continue to resonate more than 50 years later.


We’ve asked our keynote speakers to answer a few questions!


Why are you interested in the public communication of science and technology?

The public communication of science and technology, both from a practical and research perspective, is where science and society meet. This relationship between science and society, and the ways people respond to science, fascinate me. It presents me with varied and evolving facets to explore – psychology, ethics, new media ecosystems, visual communication and more! It is a dynamic and fast-changing field of study; filled with practical and intellectual challenges.

Can you describe a particular moment or experience that has defined your connection with the public communication of science and technology? (personal or historical)
After my undergraduate science studies, I opted for postgraduate training in journalism. At the time, my fellow students in South Africa thought I was a bit ‘weird’ … science communication (as a field of scholarship and practice) was not well developed locally. However, that training equipped me for a career where I could combine my interests in science and communication. Fortunately for me, interest in ‘public understanding of science’ was exploding around the world. South Africa became a democracy in 1994, and just four years later (in 1998) I was part of the steering team of the first public science engagement initiative in the ‘new’ South Africa – a year-long public celebration of science called “YEAST’98” (Year of Science and Technology, 1998).


How do you think the public communication of science and technology might or should change in the future?
I enjoy being part of a group of researchers that are working towards bridging the gap between research and practice in this field. There is still much work to do in this regard, including promoting evidence-based (instead of gut-based) and socially inclusive, ethical, science communication strategies. I hope that more effective and meaningful public communication of science (with an emphasis of public engagement, rather than science promotion) will help people and policymakers make better decisions for the future of our home planet.


Have you ever visited Scotland before? What are you most excited to see or do?
I visited Edinburgh some years ago and loved exploring this city. In addition to the workshop I attended, I remember eating the best shortbread ever, the sound of bagpipes on the streets, and having an unforgettable dinner in an old castle. Also, our visit to ‘Dynamic Earth’ was unforgettable. So … I now have high expectations of Aberdeen!

We are looking forward to hearing from Marina at PCST 2020.

Follow us for updates @PCST_Network , and registration for the conference is currently open.