Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Science and Media Disconnect? Maybe Not, Says a New Study

11.09.2009
The prevailing wisdom among many scientists and scientific organizations is that, as a rule, scientists are press shy, and those who aren’t are mavericks.

However, a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, published in the current issue (summer 2009) of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, suggests otherwise.

The study, conducted by journalism professor Sharon Dunwoody, life sciences communication professor Dominique Brossard and graduate student Anthony Dudo, provides evidence that many mainstream scientists occasionally work with journalists and some do so routinely. And the interplay between scientists and journalists, say Brossard and Dunwoody, has been remarkably stable since the 1980s.

“By and large, scientists speak to journalists, they know it is important and they’re willing to do it again,” Dunwoody says. “The frequency with which scientists and journalists interact has been pretty stable over time.”

The findings, extracted from a survey of 1,200 researchers in the areas of epidemiology and stem cell research, two fields that experience extensive news media attention, contradict the widespread view in science that scientists are out of touch.

“We found relatively frequent interactions,” says Brossard, explaining that about one-third of the respondents claimed to have had up to five contacts with journalists during a three-year period, while another third of the sample said they experienced more than six contacts with reporters over three years. Only one-third of respondents reported having no contacts with journalists.

“The frequencies are definitely encouraging,” adds Brossard.

The proportion of scientists in the sample who interact with journalists, according to the Wisconsin researchers, is intriguingly similar to studies from the 1980s, as well as patterns identified in the 1990s. The new data imply that journalistic engagement of scientists over time is greater and more stable than “persistent, anecdotal cautionary tales would suggest,” Dunwoody, Brossard and Dudo write.

Another key insight from the data is that it is generally not the case that journalists focus their attention on scientific outliers. Instead, scientists who interact most frequently with reporters tend to be senior, highly productive researchers or administrators. “The notion that journalists concentrate on mavericks is not true,” says Dunwoody. “That’s an important pattern. What it says is that journalists are working mostly with successful mainstream scientists.”

The results of the new study are important because they chip away at the common perception among scientists that media coverage of science is flawed. “We don’t know if the interactions are, in fact, better,” says Dunwoody. “But scientists are eager participants. It reflects a more active role by one of the major players in the process.”

The new study, according to Dunwoody, indicates that although scientists may have a general perception that news media coverage of science is faulty, that perception does not extend to coverage of their own work. “They often view their own work as being covered well, but that doesn’t influence the larger perception.”

The involvement of scientists in active public communication is widely viewed as critical, especially when controversial issues are at play or important policy is being forged. Coverage of such things as stem cell research, infectious disease, nuclear power, nanotechnology and biotechnology frequently entails important information about human health and has economic and social implications that reach far beyond the scientific community.

“We need to keep in mind that most people learn about scientific topics through mass media and not informal channels like science museums,” says Brossard. “Hence, the necessity for scientists to engage journalists.”

Another key insight from the study is that the scientists who work with journalists perceive that they do so not for personal gain but because their participation can influence public understanding of science and the role of science in society. In short, appealing to scientists’ moral or ethical values may be a way to increase participation in the process of making news.

Finally, the study provides evidence that scientists who have been trained or otherwise briefed about how to work with journalists are more likely to engage reporters.

Terry Devitt | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

nachricht Do microplastics harbour additional risks by colonization with harmful bacteria?
05.04.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Why we need erasable MRI scans

New technology could allow an MRI contrast agent to 'blink off,' helping doctors diagnose disease

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a widely used medical tool for taking pictures of the insides of our body. One way to make MRI scans easier to read is...

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

World's smallest optical implantable biodevice

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space

26.04.2018 | Life Sciences

First Li-Fi-product with technology from Fraunhofer HHI launched in Japan

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>