The changing role of Public Participation in Science Communication
Hester du Plessis
This presentation will look at the social and political challenges brought about by the recent global economic meltdown that created new 'public spaces' of critical intervention. Social movements, unions and civil society demand democratic rights in innovative ways. The popular public intellectual, reporting on individual opinion, is being replaced by the game-changing 'collective intellectual' who diffuses disciplinary boundaries with a transdisciplinary approach to knowledge production. In this arena of uncertainty, the role of the intellectual in alliance with the field of science communication is experiencing epistemological and practical challenges. Attention to the establishment of the principle of scientific method and the design of new structures of collective research and reporting will change the 'science and society' landscape. The challenge for African intellectuals as science communicators will be on how to accommodate the role of the collective intellectual within an outmoded system built on symbolic and individual intellectual figureheads. Civil society demands service delivery and cannot anymore be swayed by overvalued, de jure leaders.
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