22 October 2019

Similar to the situation in South Africa, research in the field of science communication is a relatively new, but growing, field in Israel. Professor Ayelet Baram-Tsabari leads the country’s pioneering research group in this field at Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) situated in Haifa. She visited Stellenbosch University on 21 October 2019 to interact with local researchers and students interested in science communication research projects.

Starting with a brief overview of science communication practice in her home country, Professor Baram-Tsabari explained how science communication has emerged and evolved to the point where “it is now thriving” in Israel. Many of the science communication initiatives in Israel try to fill the gap that has resulted from diminishing science journalism outputs in the country. Four science museums serve as hubs of science communication activity. At the same time, there is a growing number of partnerships between university-based researchers and science communication practitioners, as well as communication training opportunities for scientists. A central focus of these training initiatives is equipping scientists and science communicators to communicate and connect with diverse publics, including different cultural and religious groups.

Commenting on research in the field of science communication, Professor Baram-Tsabari provided an overview of some of the cutting-edge research projects that she is involved in. Her research group has done ground-breaking work exploring the efficacy of programmes aimed at teaching communication skills to scientists. An interesting (and useful!) outcome is the development of a “de-jargonizer” – a tool designed to help scientists write about their research in a way that will be accessible to non-specialists. This was made possible with open-source software and is currently being used free of charge by scientists all over the world.

She also presented methodologies and findings on research concerned with how people interact with online information about science, with a special focus on online information sources about vaccines. Following her presentations, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions and advice about their own research projects. A final group activity used to explain the process of content analysis made the often theoretical research methodology very practical. All present found the morning’s activities both informative and enjoyable and we look forward to further collaborative opportunities.