Posted on June 28, 2021
Scientists should try to “make use of simple language and avoid using jargon” when using the media to disseminate research findings. This was according to Primarashni Gower, PR and Events Manager at the University of Pretoria (UP), during a recent online panel discussion hosted by the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences on the role of media and social media in research.
The panel comprised Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, Professor Werdie van Staden, Director of the Centre for Ethics and Philosophy of Health Sciences, and Primarashni Gower, PR and Events Manager at the University.
Moderator Mmane Boikanyo, Head of Marketing and Communications in the Faculty of Health Sciences, opened the discussion by asking Prof Kupe, a media studies expert, about his perspective on the role of media in health research. “Media is usually the only means of society-wide communication,” he said. “The role of the media is to provide verified information to the public on health matters to counter things people wrongly believe. The media also plays a role in providing people with a space for debating and opinion-making.”
The discussion also addressed strategies that can be put in place to improve the level of knowledge on the role of media in research among researchers. Gower elaborated on why it is important for health researchers to disseminate their research findings through media and social media. “As Prof Kupe said, the media is very powerful; TV and radio have huge audiences as does community media, as they reach people that aren’t reached by print media,” she explained. “Social media is also incredibly powerful. It is important to share research findings with the media as a means of informing and enlightening the public, and in terms of accountability. Research is funded by taxpayers, government funding, donors and the National Research Foundation, so they need to see what the return of investment is.”
As to whether the media is perceived as a key stakeholder by health researchers, particularly during dissemination of research findings, Prof Staden said: “Currently [the media] is underutilised, particularly for the dissemination of research findings. I think much more can be done to make this happen. Some journals have various processes in place whereby their readers are prompted through social media. To some extent this is already happening, and I think that should be supported.”
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