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Sunday, 22 April 2018

Getting the word out about Rooibos

HEART HEALTHY: Professor Jeanine Marnewick has been nominated for an award for her concerted effort to get the word out about the research she is doing into how rooibos tea is a great way to reduce and protect against the impact of non-communicable diseases. HEART HEALTHY: Professor Jeanine Marnewick has been nominated for an award for her concerted effort to get the word out about the research she is doing into how rooibos tea is a great way to reduce and protect against the impact of non-communicable diseases.

If you do a Google search for “rooibos” and “Marnewick”, you get more than 9000 and that is no accident.

Professor Jeanine Marnewick, a researcher on the Bellville campus, has made a concerted effort to get the word out about the research she is doing into how rooibos is useful as a way to reduce and protect against the impact of non-communicable diseases because of the tea’s antioxidant activity.

That effort is not going unnoticed as she has just been nominated in the NSTF-South32 Awards category: Communication for Outreach and Creating Awareness of SET and Innovation (by a team or individual over the last 5 years).

The National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) started the NSTF-South32 Awards 20 years ago as the country’s first science awards and it has grown into the NRF’s flagship event, sometimes referred to as the ‘Science Oscars’ of South Africa.
The Awards recognise excellence and outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology and innovation in South Africa and prizes will be awarded on June 28 at a Gala Awards Dinner.

Recently appointed the research chair for CPUT’s Institute of Biomedical and Microbial Biotechnology, Marnewick also heads up the Oxidative Stress Research Centre in the Faculty of Health and Wellness Science.

This is the first time she has been nominated for an NSTF-South32 award, and this particular one is for science communication beyond academic writing.

“It’s not focusing on the academic work but more on my informing communities and the lay person about the outcomes of our research. That’s the big thing, the application of our research, because if no-one is going to tell the man on the street about our research how is anyone going to know about it?” asked Marnewick.
“I always tell people if you want me to be interested in your research, tell me the bottom line. In all my research I focus on getting to some type of application from it.

“We are government funded and we owe the public feedback on our research and we don’t always get to that lay feedback going back to the public.”
Working with The South African Rooibos Council and Cancer SA has given her a bigger platform to get the word out, but she urges any academic interested in publicising their work to the broader public to start by working through their existing channels, particularly using social media.


“I’ve also been invited to a couple of schools just to talk to them about our research and firstly make them aware about science,” she said.

Over the years Marnewick has noticed a decided “knowledge growth” in the public audience around the concept of antioxidants and sees this as a clue that repeated public communication around scientific concepts can be effective.

Marnewick says she can see the difference continual outreach has made, raising the example of a recent series of community talks she did.

Written by Theresa Smith

Email: smitht@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.