Posted by: soniahs | September 23, 2010

Exam readings: how scientists see reporters, online persuasion

No extra commentary today: I’m powering through a bunch of papers.

First paper: Peters, Brossard, de Cheveigné, Dunwoody, Kallfass, Miller and Tsuchida. “Science-Media Interface: It’s Time to Reconsider.” 2008.

Summary: This paper is a further analysis of the authors’ recent survey on attitude of scientists to reporters, in response to criticism; the major finding that was controversial was that most scientists’ recent experience with journalists were positive. Scientists’ assessments of media coverage of science overall were neutral and there were concerns with the process of science journalism, but they rated their personal experiences positively. While past scientist-journalist studies had reported greater problems, the sci-media relationship has been addressed (e.g., workshops) for several years, but there is still the primary issue that meanings of messages change when they go from the scientific to journalistic spheres. Another source of tension might not be recognizing changing sci-media relationships (e.g., professionalization of sci journalism, media strategies of scientists have changed.) They point out that scientists might be more willing to discuss research with journalists (and more trained to communicate with media), but that there is a need for journalists not to be led astray my media-savvy scientists (ecpecting them to be non-savvy.)

Comments: The authors address some of the negatives in the increasing media orientation (medialization) of science research. This includes the possibility that funding/research decisions will be made with publicity in mind, or that PR-related goals are becoming more emphasized than accuracy when scientists talk to reporters (or press releases are created.) Both issues tie into the politics of scientific institutions, and are areas for concern.

Links to: Bucchi (bypassing levels of communication)

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Second article: Minol, Spelsberg, Schulte, and Morris. “Portals, Blogs and Co.: the Role of the Internet as a Medium of Science Communication.” 2007.

Summary: The authors describe an effort to disseminate research about GM crops widely to the public, and influence public attitudes, via the Internet. They point out that it is difficult to evaluate the credibility of online content (anonymity removes consequences.) While Web 2.0 tools have changed the Internet from an info storage medium to a communication medium, even crowdsourced sites (like Wikipedia) can be disproportionately influenced by a small group with inaccurate views. They suggest creating portal sites to provide accurate scientific info. They report about their portal, which is designed to influence public attitudes toward biotechnology in Germany. Their goals are to provide access to info, contextualize risk in scientific terms, promote transparency, and build trust. Their approach has four parts: provide accurate info on testing procedures for GM crops, online “marketing” of the site (search engine optimization), satisfying first time users (usability, aesthetics), and creating user affinity (creating a discussion community.) The portal is accompanied by a mass-media campaign to make scientific viewpoints more well-represented in public discussions of GM crops.

Comments: It sounds like the described portal is a good example of an approach to communication that includes some aspects of dialogue, but is primarily designed for one-way persuasion (even though persuasion is to take into account social valies & not just factual information.)

Links to: Einseidel (forms of public dialogue); Irwin (risk & broader societal impacts of science)

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