A case study looking at the challenges – and some ways of meeting these – of communicating science (1) in and (2) of a multidisciplinary science, engineering and technology (SET) organisation.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa comprises a number of varying SET domains – ranging from the built environment, biosciences, and defence, to modelling and digital science, and laser research.
Although the organisation’s multidisciplinary nature is seen as a strength, it also leads to confusion among some stakeholders who are unclear about the organisation’s focus – and thus its value proposition. In addition, every SET domain within the organisation has a different group culture (regardless of efforts to advocate a “singular CSIR”). This has as a result that stakeholders experience the organisation differently and – thus inconsistently – depending on which domain they are exposed to.
Internally, a challenge exists in fostering cross-domain interaction between researchers. Consequently, one finds that science disciplines would know very little of one another but that unnecessary and costly duplication exists in terms of cross-cutting capabilities (e.g. modelling). Researchers across domains would also be communicating with similar stakeholders, without being aware of it (leading to further confusion which adds to a seeming reluctance in the uptake of research by stakeholders – many of whom are laymen).
(1) How can science communication contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of different science disciplines within an organisation and a willingness to share learning and engage in cross-organisational dialogue?
(2) With the varying dynamics of a multidisciplinary organisation, how can science communication contribute to a cohesive message about different research topics to diverging external stakeholders?
In responding to these challenges, the CSIR has implemented various platforms for engagement internally and is embarking on targeted external initiatives –also with a view to increase the uptake of research by decision and policy makers, among others. The road is an interesting and sometimes sobering one, but every endeavour thus far has not only highlighted the importance of science communication but also the necessity of a shared understanding of the value of science communication.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Experiences in herding cats
Communicating science in (and of) a multidisciplinary organisation

Collette Vosloo   Senior Manager, Research Communication CSIR

A case study looking at the challenges – and some ways of meeting these – of communicating science (1) in and (2) of a multidisciplinary science, engineering and technology (SET) organisation.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa comprises a number of varying SET domains – ranging from the built environment, biosciences, and defence, to modelling and digital science, and laser research.
Although the organisation’s multidisciplinary nature is seen as a strength, it also leads to confusion among some stakeholders who are unclear about the organisation’s focus – and thus its value proposition. In addition, every SET domain within the organisation has a different group culture (regardless of efforts to advocate a “singular CSIR”). This has as a result that stakeholders experience the organisation differently and – thus inconsistently – depending on which domain they are exposed to.
Internally, a challenge exists in fostering cross-domain interaction between researchers. Consequently, one finds that science disciplines would know very little of one another but that unnecessary and costly duplication exists in terms of cross-cutting capabilities (e.g. modelling). Researchers across domains would also be communicating with similar stakeholders, without being aware of it (leading to further confusion which adds to a seeming reluctance in the uptake of research by stakeholders – many of whom are laymen).
(1) How can science communication contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of different science disciplines within an organisation and a willingness to share learning and engage in cross-organisational dialogue?
(2) With the varying dynamics of a multidisciplinary organisation, how can science communication contribute to a cohesive message about different research topics to diverging external stakeholders?
In responding to these challenges, the CSIR has implemented various platforms for engagement internally and is embarking on targeted external initiatives –also with a view to increase the uptake of research by decision and policy makers, among others. The road is an interesting and sometimes sobering one, but every endeavour thus far has not only highlighted the importance of science communication but also the necessity of a shared understanding of the value of science communication.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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