A multi-institutional collaborative academic research team including the University of Johannesburg has received a USD 20 000 award from the National Research Foundation (NRF) COVID-19 Africa Rapid Grant Fund. The fund seeks to contribute to the African regional and continental response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three academics from the UJ School of Communication, Prof Sarah Chiumbu (Head of School/Associate Professor) Journalism, Film & Television Department; Prof Elizabeth Lubinga (Associate Professor/Project Principal Investigator) and Dr Karabo Sitto (Lecturer) Strategic Communication Department partnered with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) for the project.
The two-year science engagement project in collaboration with industry, intends to explore innovative message framing within a multi-country context, as a component of crisis health communication. It will focus on specific strategies employed during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa and Namibia.
The project recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic and related communication has illuminated the importance of careful reflection on message framing in developing communication strategies during health crises. This calls for a careful consideration of the potential impact of specific message frames and the extent to which they can enable or constrain understanding and uptake.
The award falls under overall funding by the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) which is intended to support Africa's response to COVID-19 implemented through collaborative efforts with fifteen (15) science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa. These include amongst others the NRF South Africa, IDRC, Sida, DFID, United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Newton Fund, South Africa's Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Fonds de Recherche du Québec (FRQ). The SGCI participating councils, and additional partners will collaborate to implement the Rapid Grant Fund to address research questions and implement science engagement activities associated with COVID-19.
The three-pronged call which also covered research, and science engagement aimed at science advisers, included science engagement for science and health journalists and communicators on the African continent, and encouraged multi-country collaborations. In total 17 African countries were eligible to apply.