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Mar 07, 2022 Article
Scientific research in news media: a case study of misrepresentation, sensationalism and harmful recommendations

by Georgia Dempster, Georgina Sutherland and Louise Keogh

Accurate news media reporting of scientific research is important as most people receive their health information from the media and inaccuracies in media reporting can have adverse health outcomes. We completed a quantitative and qualitative analysis of a journal article, the corresponding press release and the online news reporting of a scientific study. Four themes were identified in the press release that were directly translated to the news reports that contributed to inaccuracies: sensationalism, misrepresentation, clinical recommendations and subjectivity. The pressures on journalists, scientists and their institutions has led to a mutually beneficial relationship between these actors that can prioritise newsworthiness ahead of scientific integrity to the detriment of public health.

Volume 21 • Issue 01 • 2022

Dec 06, 2021 Article
Perceptions of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work of science journalists: global perspectives

by Luisa Massarani, Luiz Felipe Fernandes Neves, Marta Entradas, Tim Lougheed and Martin W. Bauer

The article presents the results of a survey of science journalists from six world regions about their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The responses show perception of increasing workload for most participants. Local scientists and peer-reviewed articles are the main sources. According to the respondents, scientists have become more available during the pandemic. The use of preprint articles was a frequent practice, but a considerable proportion declared they did not adopt different procedures when reporting them. Most also said they take fake news into account when writing their stories.

Volume 20 • Issue 07 • 2021

Oct 11, 2021 Article
Investigating the process of ethical approval in citizen science research: the case of Public Health

by Antonella Ficorilli, Giovanni Maccani, Mara Balestrini, Annibale Biggeri, Bruna De Marchi, Frederique E. M. Froeling, Florence Gignac, Regina Grazuleviciene, Gerard Hoek, Tjaša Kanduč, David Kocman, Valeria Righi and Xavier Basagana

Undertaking citizen science research in Public Health involving human subjects poses significant challenges concerning the traditional process of ethical approval. It requires an extension of the ethics of protection of research subjects in order to include the empowerment of citizens as citizen scientists. This paper investigates these challenges and illustrates the ethical framework and the strategies developed within the CitieS-Health project. It also proposes first recommendations generated from the experiences of five citizen science pilot studies in environmental epidemiology within this project.

Volume 20 • Issue 06 • 2021 • Special Issue: Third International ECSA Conference, Trieste 2020

Oct 04, 2021 Article
Co-benefits associated with public support for climate-friendly COVID-19 recovery policies and political activism

by Jagadish Thaker and Brian Floyd

Scientists highlight that actions that address environmental protection and climate change can also help with reducing infectious disease threats. Results using data from a national sample survey in New Zealand indicate that perceptions of co-benefits of actions to address environmental protection that also protect against infectious disease outbreaks such as the coronavirus is associated with policy support and political engagement. This association was partly mediated through perceived collective efficacy. Local councils with higher level of community collective efficacy were more likely to declare climate emergency. Communication about potential co-benefits is likely to shape public engagement and enact policy change.

Volume 20 • Issue 05 • 2021

Aug 30, 2021 Article
Steak and bleach as science communication heroes? The rise of post-corona, posthuman irony

by Padraig Murphy

Since early 2020, communicating risks associated with COVID-19 and providing safety advice have been top priorities for health agencies and governments. With an increase in employees working remotely following the global spread of coronavirus coupled with increasingly sophisticated marketing strategies, global brands unsurprisingly engaged consumers and publics by acknowledging the crisis that engulfed the world. An increase in online marketing was observed in an already existing trend online where hybrids of consumer, brand and product-as-object interacted as equals, using contemporary informal codes of social media discourse and often using irony and humour. However, this paper critically assesses how such important communication responsibilities about coronavirus were taken up by private companies. Online and social media outputs were analysed through a lens of anthropomorphising and posthuman brands. A typology of brand strategies was developed based on engagement and how COVID-19 science, care and prevention were communicated. The paper concludes with a reflection on where this may lead health and environmental communication and what it means for science communicators.

Volume 20 • Issue 05 • 2021

Jun 21, 2021 Article
Providing health information via Twitter: professional background and message style influence source trustworthiness, message credibility and behavioral intentions

by Lars König and Priska Breves

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global community, politicians as well as scientists increasingly turn to Twitter to share urgent health information using various message styles. The results of our 2x2 between-subject experiment show that if a Tweet is written in lower-case letters, participants perceive the information source as more trustworthy. Furthermore, the information is perceived as more credible, and people are more willing to read the health information and share it via social media. Furthermore, scientists are perceived as possessing more expertise than politicians. However, politicians are perceived as possessing more integrity and benevolence than scientists.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

May 10, 2021 Article
Exploring the digital media ecology: insights from a study of healthy diets and climate change communication on digital and social media

by Emma Weitkamp, Elena Milani, Andy Ridgway and Clare Wilkinson

This study explores the types of actors visible in the digital science communication landscape in the Netherlands, Serbia and the U.K. Using the Koru model of science communication as a basis, we consider how science communicators craft their messages and which channels they are using to reach audiences. The study took as case studies the topics of climate change and healthy diets to enable comparison across countries, topics and platforms. These findings are compared with the results from a survey of over 200 science communication practitioners based in these countries. We find that although traditional media are challenged by the variety of different new entrants into the digital landscape, our results suggest that the media and journalists remain highly visible. In addition, our survey results suggest that many science communicators may struggle to gain traction in the crowded digital ecology, and in particular, that relatively few scientists and research institutions and universities are achieving a high profile in the public digital media ecology of science communication.

Volume 20 • Issue 03 • 2021 • Special Issue: Re-examining Science Communication: models, perspectives, institutions, 2021

Apr 12, 2021 Article
Policing orthodoxy on Wikipedia: Skeptics in action?

by Brian Martin

Wikipedia has been accused of being biased against challengers to scientific orthodoxy due to efforts by editors having affinities with the Skeptics movement. Examination of Wikipedia, including entries on fluoridation, the origin of AIDS and vaccination, reveals several characteristics typical of a Skeptics sensibility, including the definition of scepticism, lists of deviant ideas, derogatory labelling of heterodox viewpoints, and categories established without reference to reliable sources.

Volume 20 • Issue 02 • 2021

Apr 06, 2021 Article
Science in the media: the scientific community's perception of the COVID-19 media coverage in Spain

by Javier de Sola

The COVID-19 pandemic was the most prominent feature in the media in 2020. This research analyzes the scientific community's perception of the journalistic coverage of the pandemic in the Spanish media. Based on a survey with the participation of 818 respondents, the study revealed that scientists believe that radio did the best job in reporting the pandemic, whereas television did the worst. Among our findings, it is worthwhile to mention that — according to scientists — the media used sensationalistic tones and reports were not particularly accurate nor realistic. Finally, we included the scientific community's recommendations to treat the subject more appropriately.

Volume 20 • Issue 02 • 2021

Mar 29, 2021 Article
The coronavirus pandemic narratives in Italian digital media

by Jorge Milan Fitera, Natalia Abuín-Vences and Javier Sierra Sánchez

In this paper we discuss the SARS-CoV-2-related information coverage (beginning of the epidemic) in Italian digital media narratives. We surveyed the digital articles that reported the highest engagement level. The aim was to identify the most prominent variables (topics, players and news coverage area). Similarly, a discourse analysis was carried out by analyzing the tone used in relation to the variables mentioned. The results show that the most important topics were health, politics and the economy. Headlines appeared to be more likely to have a negative tone, although neutral headlines were the most common. The main feature in digital media headlines was civil society.

Volume 20 • Issue 02 • 2021