PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Building trust and countering misinformation through science communication

Liezel Gouws  

Risk communication is increasingly being identified as one of the most neglected aspects of the risk analysis process for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which requires urgent investment and development. Therefore, Biosafety South Africa has embarked on a science communication project in order to communicate biosafety related issues more effectively in South Africa and to stimulate interest in science, specifically the biotechnology sector. To date the project was successful in developing a proficient and science-based biosafety communications strategy with a national focus that will: a) Develop awareness of the regulatory systems that are in place to ensure the safe and sustainable research, development, and commercialisation of GM technologies (b) Encourage confidence in these systems (c) Increase the general awareness and consumer confidence in science and the role of South Africa's scientists and science institutions The following projects will be initiated in order to stimulate interest and communicate the scientific facts around GMOs: a) The launch of a national video clip competition to inspire post-graduate students to communicate biosafety related messages via this popular medium. (b) Develop training resources, train and encourage post-graduate students to participate more actively in biosafety communication. With special emphasis on black South African students who speak one of the official languages to improve access to rural communities (c) Develop specific lessons and resources for teachers to teach at schools, distributed amongst schools for free. Other strategies include telling inspiring stories about the successful implementation of the GM technology by female, small scale farmers, involving the broadcast media and researchers, accessing social networks for science communication and public engagement strategies. Essentially, this presentation will show how Biosafety South Africa developed and approached the challenge of communicating the science around GMOs and the regulation thereof in a novel and strategic way in order to build trust and counter misinformation.

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