Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Science And Media Disconnect? Maybe Not, Says A New Study

Date:
September 9, 2009
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
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.

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.

Related Articles


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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Science And Media Disconnect? Maybe Not, Says A New Study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122106.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2009, September 9). Science And Media Disconnect? Maybe Not, Says A New Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122106.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Science And Media Disconnect? Maybe Not, Says A New Study." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122106.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Symantec Uncovers Sophisticated Spying Malware Regin

Symantec Uncovers Sophisticated Spying Malware Regin

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A Symantec white paper reveals details about Regin, a spying malware of unusual complexity which is believed to be state-sponsored. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hackers Target Business Travellers

Hackers Target Business Travellers

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A newly detected malware, dubbed Darkhotel, infects hotel networks with spying software to steal sensitive data from the computers of high profile business executives, warns a leading computer security firm. Ciara Lee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NY Gov. on Flood Prep: 'prepared for the Worst'

NY Gov. on Flood Prep: 'prepared for the Worst'

AP (Nov. 23, 2014) — First came the big storm. Now comes the big melt for residents of flood-prone areas around Buffalo. New York's governor says officials are preparing for the worst as the temperature is expected to rise and potentially melt several feet of snow. (Nov. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins