Author: Lars Guenther – University of Hamburg, Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies, Germany


  • Rodrigo Costas – Leiden University, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Netherlands
  • Jonathan Dudek – Leiden University, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Netherlands
  • Marina Joubert – Stellenbosch University, Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology, South Africa
  • Daniela Mahl – University of Hamburg, Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies, Germany

While science journalism is in crisis in many countries (e.g., Guenther, 2019) and scientists are increasingly called to make their work publicly visible (e.g., Rödder, 2012; Joubert, 2018), in new media environments (Brossard, 2013) alternative sources for informing the public on scientific topics have become popular (e.g., Brumfiel, 2009). Among them is The Conversation with its Africa Edition The Conversation Africa (TCA): a novel, open-access online platform for science news written by scientists, and edited by journalists. TCA’s content is free-to-republish by media outlets under a Creative Commons Agreement. Thus, TCA can be situated in the intersection between scientific and journalistic communication, acting as gatekeeper (Fahy & Nisbet, 2011; Shoemaker & Vos, 2009) and agenda setter (McCombs & Shaw, 1972) for science news. Since researchers have been asked to put more effort into studying alternative online sources of scientific information, the present study delivers insights into TCA’s nature as well as journalistic and social media uptake of its content in order to compare TCA’s impact on traditional journalism compared to social media engagement.

TCA provided access to metrics for all articles published since its launch in May 2015 until May 2020 (N = 5392). The number of publications per month was steady over time. In total, those articles were written by 3589 authors, with single-authored articles (n = 4390; 81%) and South African authorship (n = 3897; 56%) dominating. Using automated clustering and visualization techniques, journalistic uptake (e.g., republishing by other media outlets) was more frequent for TCA articles published on political topics; social media uptake (e.g., Facebook and Twitter shares) was particularly high for articles on education and academia, as well as wildlife and ecology. Hence, attention for TCA articles as an alternative online source of information about science varies regarding media (traditional journalism or social media) and topics concerned.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Time

Author: Lars Guenther – CREST, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Marina Joubert – CREST, Stellenbosch University
Corlia Meyer – CREST, Stellenbosch University

The images that people have of science and of scientists are supposed to represent people’s perceptions of scientists and their role in society (Fung, 2002; Medina-Jerez, Middleton, & Orihuela-Rabaza, 2011). Although researchers assume that (stereotypical) images that people have of scientists affect science-related career choices (Chambers, 1983; Steinke et al., 2007), very few studies have looked at this in detail. The current study not only adds to the research literature through its African context (so far, there is only one study: Mbajiorgu & Iloputaife, 2001), but also applied the Draw-a-Scientist Test (DAST; Chambers, 1983) to first-year students (n = 445) across different faculties at a South African university (cf. Rosenthal, 1993). If the assumption that young people’s perceptions of scientists influence their career choice is correct, one would expect differences in the drawings made by students who have opted for different fields of study. The findings show that South African students – in line with the international research literature – use about four stereotypical characteristics when drawing a scientist; a typical scientist, as identified in this study, is a man of uncertain age, who wears eyeglasses and a lab coat, and is surrounded by laboratory equipment. Also in this study, a low number of male students drew female scientists (only one student in this sample), and the majority of female students drew male scientists (see also Chambers, 1983; Medina-Jerez et al., 2011). Social science students drew stereotypical attributes more frequently when compared to students from other faculties, which might be explained by the lower degree of direct contact with scientists that these students have. To discuss this, the study shows that what is needed – also in an African context – is more contact between students and scientists, and contact between students and female role-models in particular (cf. Barman, 1997).

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication