Gap between science and media revisited: Scientists as public communicators
Science and the media need each other. They just Science, Meet Journalism. The AMNH program, which took place on June 18, Scientists are now contemplating the fabrication of a human genome, He said the meeting was closed to the news media, and people were asked not of the proposed project, at his lab at Harvard Medical School in 28, , PM "I use social media to get scientific inspiration. Set up a meeting or phone conversation and be prepared with a short.
However, as yet, there is little evidence of an erosion of the dominant orientation toward the public and public communication within the younger generation of scientists. Furthermore, they pointed to negative perceptions of the general media coverage of science and technology by scientists.
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Their description of the science—media relationship was probably in tune with the dominant perception at the time. Leading scientists have frequently commented on the problems of the public understanding of science, and the public communication leading to these problems 78. The many activities aiming to improve the science—media relationship and to explore alternative means of communicating with the public prove the almost global perception of an unsatisfactory relationship between science and the media 9 — However, to better understand the specificities of the science—media interface, media relations of scientists are compared with the media relations of researchers in the humanities and social sciences.
While applying a cross-cultural perspective, the evidence presented is largely confined to major democratic knowledge societies. Since the s, scholars studying the science—media relationship have looked at the role of norms of scientific communities, which were thought to discourage scientists from communicating with the media by posing a risk for the academic reputation of scientists appearing in public 34 They studied incompatibilities between the professional cultures of scientists and journalists, as well as mutual prejudices and negative perceptions 11617and investigated differences in the way scientists and journalists observe and describe the world 18 Empirical data from surveys even in the s to s would have allowed a more nuanced picture, but these data have frequently been overlooked or downplayed because of the dominant perceptions of an unsatisfactory science—media relationship.Science in Transition - Frank Miedema - TEDxMaastricht
Besides evidence of a critical assessment of the media coverage on science and technology in general 116some studies show a strong motivation on the part of scientists to interact with the media 162021 and a high degree of co-orientation of scientists and journalists 1722 Furthermore, a large proportion of scientists were actually interacting with journalists. For example, in a survey of faculty members of Ohio State University and Ohio University inapproximately two thirds of the interviewed scientists reported contacts with journalists Even in the late s to s, it was therefore not a rare exception for scientists to talk to journalists, but already a widespread practice.
Although it is true that some scientists become particularly visible in the public eye 25surveys show that contacts with journalists and popularization activities were not confined to a few visible scientists, but included a large proportion of the members of scientific communities. In her well-known book Selling Science published inNelkin pointed to the strategic move away from a scientific community hesitantly responding to the information demands of society toward a community actively seeking publicity and controlling its public image This is partly a response to changes in the character of science such as stronger interdependency with industry and government, the diffusion into science of legitimacy problems and controversies related to technologies, and the development of applications that raise fundamental ethical questions 27 We are thus seeing an increasing strategic orientation of science toward the media today, even leading to concerns about problematic repercussions on science of the strong orientation of researchers toward the media The present situation is characterized by a continuation of long-standing patterns in the interactions of science and the journalistic media including their online variantsand a major structural change in the public communication system caused by the inception and proliferation of the Internet.
To support the arguments presented in this article, published and unpublished data from our own surveys of scientists will be used. In the process, I discovered how much these two communities have to offer each other, far beyond the subject matter. In a March Research! America surveytwo-thirds of Americans polled could not name a single living scientist.
Little surprise, then, that the National Science Board has found that a majority of Americans do not understand what scientists do at work. According to a Pew Research Center pollwhile 87 percent of scientists accepted that natural selection plays a role in evolution, only 32 percent of the public agreed — one of the lowest percentages in the developed world. In the general media, where most of the public still gets its news, there is almost no science or environmental coverage.
A Pew Research Center content analysis of a broad sampling of media outlets cited by the National Science Board revealed that from toscience and technology accounted for only 1.
That number dropped to one percent in both categories in According to the Bureau of Labor Statisticsthere are 58, reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts in the U. While there is no specific tally of science and environmental reporters, the combined memberships of Society of Environmental Journalists, National Association of Science Writers and Association of Health Care Journalists are around 5, a figure that includes many non-journalist members.
Many news organizations have no science or environmental reporters. They are considered unaffordable luxuries. Even those that have them have greatly reduced their numbers, often to one person.
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Journalists reporting on other areas seldom consider these disciplines in relation to issues they cover. The sense that science inhabits a separate box also affects media coverage and placement decisions. I wanted to test that hypothesis. Exploring Oceans for Creatures that Glow. As part of the program, journalists canoed to the center of the Rhode River, where Smithsonian scientist Matt Ogburn demonstrated how scientists track thousands of fish with acoustic telemetry, the same technology used last March in an effort to find the missing Malaysian airliner.
His lab monitors all commercial shipping arriving in U. They discussed the IT infrastructure they built to organize the millions of images the project generated, and the viral public response to images that were posted. They are gearing up for a new project to chart the movements of carnivores in 20 cities across the United States in collaboration with numerous local partners.
They hope to scale up from a repository of 4 million images to 30 million images that any middle schooler can access with the push of a button. Both programs shared several key features. They emphasized experiential and hands-on approaches. They combined science content with a journalism craft component. Participation was voluntary and after work for both scientists and journalists.
Fifty-three journalists from 33 national, international, and regional news organizations and journalism school faculty participated in the two pilot programs.
Their ranks included White House correspondents, foreign correspondents, general assignment reporters, video journalists, radio and television producers, political, defense, security, foreign affairs, cultural and congressional reporters, editors, editorial writers, news directors, digital and multimedia reporters, and local TV news.
Only a few covered science. Though the primary goal of the programs was engagement, some of the journalists produced or are currently working on stories. The journalist said that not only was the story fun to do, it also gave her an opportunity to experiment with several new technologies — a drone for aerial shots, and underwater photography to film the fish.
Several journalists wanted to stay after the lengthy Smithsonian program to brainstorm with their colleagues on various ways to use the material. Others contacted me afterwards to suggest topics for future programs. Most of the AMNH participants also filled out a survey asking an open question about which areas in the sciences interest them. They listed 34 topics across a broad range of subjects — everything from geology to brain science to time travel.
These findings raise an obvious question: If there is so much interest, why is there so little science in the general media? Part of the explanation lies in a lack of access and opportunity, and the current newsroom structure.
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There are few organized opportunities for working media covering other topics to learn about the sciences. In some newsrooms, non-science journalists are not allowed to do science stories. I love science journalism and wish there were more of it.
I serve on the board of the D. Access means not only the opportunity to speak with scientists. It also signifies having productive interactions with them. Most non-science journalists want experiences and adventures in language they can understand, and — as many of the journalists commented approvingly in their program evaluations — no preaching.
Finally, connecting the science to outside actors like the seafood distributor and chef helped generate story ideas. Where Science and Journalism Come Together For more than a decade now, news organizations have seen their advertising revenues, subscriber bases, and company values shrink.
People now consume news on a variety of devices in different formats. Social media has upended traditional media models. Out of the turmoil, new forms of journalism are beginning to emerge.