Professor Rachel Wynberg from the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at UCT, was awarded the NRF Public Engagement with Research Award at the NRF Awards.
Professor Wynberg holds the DSI-NRF Research Chair in Environmental and Social Dimensions of the Bioeconomy. The bio-economy covers a broad range of areas from healthcare and food security to poverty reduction and environmental remediation. It includes, among other things, the commercial use of biodiversity and traditional knowledge, genetic engineering, the processing of biological raw materials, biofuels, and waste management.
Located at the interface of fast-changing genetic and information technologies, and the juncture of a wide range of social, environmental, political, and ethical concerns, Prof Wynberg’s Research Chair asks critical questions about the governance of the bio-economy and who stands to benefit; the involvement of local and Indigenous communities; sustainable agricultural futures; and the environmental and societal implications of biotechnology. Prof Wynberg consciously seeks to engage society with her research, tailoring her message to different audiences, including policy– and decisionmakers, civil society organisations, local communities, and Indigenous groups. She does this by utilising a range of communication approaches such as policy briefs, pamphlets, posters, zines and blogs, innovative videos, podcasts and use of the creative arts; community capacity-building and research feedback workshops; and multi-actor seminars, conferences, and webinars. This has enabled her to reach a wide audience while remaining mindful of the architectures of different knowledge systems and multiple ways of knowing.
Prof Wynberg’s work has narrowed the knowledge gap between science and society and has helped to foster critical thinking of the environmental, social, and political dynamics of the bio-economy among community members, and how these affect society.
Photo: Dean of Science Prof Maano Ramutsindela and Prof Rachel Wynberg at the NRF awards ceremony