News » Dyantyi fosters the ‘Science with and for society’ objective of #RRI

Dyantyi fosters the ‘Science with and 
for society’ objective of #RRI

By: Lucky Dlamini – WWF-SAIAB Communications Intern
Edited by: Penny Haworth – SAIAB Communications Manager 

Siphelele Dyantyi giving a presentation at the Ndlambe Municipality Hall.

There is a global shift towards making research findings freely available to society, through what is called ‘Open Access’. This approach is recognised for making research results more accessible as well as contributing to better and more relevant science in the public sphere. Scientific research often helps to answer some of society’s greatest challenges, and not all scientists convey their research findings to society. When they do, the outcome of scientific studies is often only published in peer-reviewed journals which most citizens never see. Siphelele Dyantyi, a student supervised at the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) and registered at Rhodes University has demonstrated that effective cooperation between science and society is an achievable goal. Dyantyi has taken up the Responsible Research and Innovation (#RRI) objective of ‘Science with and for society’ through reporting the results from his Master’s research project to the community of Ndlambe Municipality, in Port Alfred. 

The audience carefully listening to Dyantyi as he explains the intricacies of his research results.

Dyantyi’s presentation focused on how marine invertebrate larvae (babies) are transported from the ocean to the rocky shores on the Kenton-on-Sea and Cannon Rocks coastlines. His presentation attracted members of the general public and conservation awareness personnel working along this coastline. Dyantyi’s research found that adult larval populations along the south coast receive different numbers of larvae (babies) depending on where they are geographically located. As such, Dyantyi holds that, “Such differences need to be considered and investigated more closely (most likely through long-term monitoring efforts) in order to determine the regional role of this dominant shore species and the necessary conservation needs (if there are any) to take place to maintain a healthy coastline.”

Dyantyi shared that it was important for him to present to the Ndlambe Municipality because he felt the need to share the knowledge and experience that he gained while working on his project to the community, because “sharing knowledge with the public will increase awareness of how marine ecosystems work,” he said. In addition to this, he explained that his results are adding to the already existing South African literature about marine mussels on the south east coast. “Engaging with the community creates a mutual benefit as both scientistss and community members can learn from each other. Researchers can learn the indigenous knowledge from the community and the community can learn from scientific knowledge about coastal environments,” said Dyantyi.

Such initiatives make science more attractive to society and increase society’s appetite for science, conservation and protection of our natural heritage and resources. Dyantyi shared sentiments that, “General awareness through education and outreach is important as the community of Port Alfred will place a value on and respect the environment, ultimately leading to better care of the coastal ecosystem in their region.”

Question and answer session: Dyantyi responding to an engaging question from an audience member.

Four WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) beach stewards who were part of the audience shared pleasant sentiments about Dyantyi’s presentation as it links to their work of environmental education and awareness projects in the Ndlambe Municipality. One of the beach stewards said, “I was happy that Kenton was one of the sites that Dyantyi researched on as some of our colleagues are stationed there, therefore they will benefit from this knowledge. I think that presentations like these should continue as they are very educational.” This opinion demonstrates that such engagement efforts become spaces to share knowledge and this positively impacts on society and the decisions people make in everyday interaction with nature and its habitats. As one beach steward expressed, “I learned a lot, I never knew that there were larvae in our oceans and this attracted my mind.”

From left to right: Bangile Mwezeni and Nolusindiso Mgudlandlu (WESSA Beach Stewards),
Zandile Ngqokoqwane
(Environment Education Ranger), Sweetness Njibane and
Sinethemba Mabone (
WESSA Beach Stewards) and behind is Siphelele Dyantyi.

It is events such as this public presentation which are gradually sensitising SAIAB as a research institute to foster good science governance through the #RRI approach. This approach implies that societal actors such as researchers, citizens, policy makers and civil society organisations, like WESSA, should work together to better align the research process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of society. Including multiple actors and especially civil society in research, enables easier access to scientific results through public engagement, which fulfils another objective of #RRI.

“Dyantyi’s research results will help us because we always do environmental presentations to local communities. We will now talk about something that we know. We will not just speculate but we will now present our work with confidence like how Siphelele took us through his presentation. Our knowledge is solid, and we are confident of what we will be sharing with others as we saw the scientific results in black and white,” said Sweetness Njibane of WESSA Beach Stewards.

SAIAB continues to support and encourage its research students and scientists to put public-funded research results into the public sphere to make science more accessible and contribute to strengthening the knowledge-based economy. The integration of the principles of #RRI into science research can promote institutional transformation which in turn can foster good science governance.