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 Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>