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Jul 04, 2022 Commentary
Science communication in the face of skepticism, populism, and ignorance: what ‘Don’t Look Up’ tells us about science denial — and what it doesn’t

by Niels G. Mede

‘Don’t Look Up’ tells the story of a team of astrophysicists whose efforts to warn politicians, media makers, and the public about an apocalyptic comet impact on planet Earth are undermined by fundamental skepticism toward their expertise. On the one hand, the film offers a rich portrayal of contemporary anti-science sentiments, their societal conditions, and the media and communication ecology surrounding them. But on the other hand, ‘Don’t Look Up’ ignores and exaggerates several facets of those sentiments and the communicative settings in which they spread. This commentary analyzes this contrast through a science communication lens: it scrutinizes the (mis)representation of science denial and science communication in ‘Don’t Look Up’ — and aims to inspire further debate about portrayals of anti-science phenomena and potential remedies within popular media.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Jul 04, 2022 Commentary
`The handsome astronomer and the yelling lady': representing scientists and expertise in ‘Don't look up’

by Amy C. Chambers

The film ‘Don't look up’ engages a woman science advisor, historically a very male-dominated role. Because the character of woman scientist Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) cannot be easily transformed into a commodity, she is side-lined as a scientific voice as she attempts to warn Earth of the coming apocalypse. For marginalised scientists, their value depends on how their identity markers are used. ‘Don't look up’ is a satire of audience apathy, corporate greed, and media manipulation but still offers a very nihilistic vision of the impact of scientists and their expertise.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Jul 04, 2022 Commentary
The science communication of ‘Don't Look Up ’

by Hannah Little

In December 2021, Netflix released a comedy feature film, ‘Don't Look Up’. The film follows two scientists who discover an extinction-level comet heading for Earth, which they then attempt to warn humanity about. The makers of the film have publicly stated that the film is meant as a satirical metaphor for the response to the climate emergency. The film presents representations of science, scientists, and science communication. In this set of commentaries, experts have been selected to explore these representations and the lessons the film presents for using satire in science communication.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Jul 04, 2022 Commentary
Evidence in the eye of the beholder: portrayals of risk and scientific (un)certainty in ‘Don't look up’

by Lars Guenther and Lutz Granert

In this invited comment, we discuss portrayals of risk and scientific (un)certainty in ‘Don't look up’. Specific scenes of the movie were selected, to reflect how within and between the spheres of science, politics, journalism, and economics an upcoming risk and its scientific (un)certainty is (re-)interpreted and (re-)framed, in line with the respective sphere's logic. We extend our assessment by common criteria of film analysis and comparisons to climate change, where applicable. This comment emphasizes how in the movie the logic of economy is taken over by politics and journalism, and how it prevails over the logic of science.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Jul 04, 2022 Commentary
Caricatures and omissions: representations of the news media in ‘Don't look up’

by Declan Fahy

‘Don't look up’ represents the news media as harmful to the public understanding of science. The news media turns honest scientists into corrupted and compromised media personalities. Its dynamics and demands make it unable to inform the public that a planet-killing comet, the film's allegory for climate change, is an existential threat. This commentary argues that these representations devalue the power of celebrity scientists to communicate science, ignore how journalists have placed climate change and ideas of climate catastrophe on the public agenda, and imply there is an idealised type of science communication — the deficit model — that journalists have corroded.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Jul 04, 2022 Commentary
The use of satire to communicate science in ‘Don't look up’

by Hannah Little

Satire has long been used as a tool in social commentary and political communication, and in some cases this has extended to commentary about science and its role in policy. This is certainly the case for the recent Adam McKay film, ‘Don't look up’, where an allegorical story about a comet heading for Earth is used to satirise the current political and media response to the climate catastrophe. While the film succeeds in making its point, how the humour interacts with objectives of science communication highlights some risks of using satire where there's overlap between the subject of the satire and a potential audience for communication.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Jun 28, 2022 Article
Plausibility of scientific findings: institutional factors in lay evaluations

by Elizaveta P. Sheremet and Inna F. Deviatko

One of the recent “crises” experienced by science is associated with a decline in its public support. We conducted two factorial surveys among university students aiming at broadening our understanding of the information cues influencing the wider publics' judgments of science. We found that sociological and criminological research results are perceived as less plausible compared to neuroscientific and physiological research, but as more plausible than results from genetics. In contrast with the previous data on the importance of funding and institutional prestige cues as the indirect indicators of the research quality among academic experts, we discovered the absence of any effects of funding or institutional prestige for the selected type of general audience.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Jun 10, 2022 Article
Towards the reflective science communication practitioner

by Tessa Roedema, Virgil Rerimassie, J. E. W. Broerse and J. F. H. Kupper

The practice of science communication is fundamentally changing. This requires science communication practitioners to continuously adapt their practice to an ever-changing ecosystem and highlights the importance of reflective practice for science communication. In this study, we supported 21 science communication practitioners in developing a reflective practice. Our study shows that reflective practice enabled practitioners in becoming aware of their own stance towards science or assumptions regarding audiences (single-loop learning), underlying and sometimes conflicting values or worldviews present in science communication situations (double-loop learning), and facilitated practitioners to adapt their practice accordingly. Triple-loop learning, allowing practitioners to fundamentally rethink and transform their mode of science communication, was less observed. We argue that reflective practice contributes to opening-up public conversations on science — including a conversation on underlying values, worldviews, and emotions, next to communicating scientific facts.

Volume 21 • Issue 04 • 2022 • Special Issue: Responsible science communication across the globe

May 16, 2022 Article
“Cover your mouth and nose”: communication about health protection behaviors by role models in YouTube COVID-19 videos for children

by Jocelyn Steinke, Carolyn A. Lin, Tamia Duncan and Viviana Zambrano

YouTube videos offer a potentially useful vehicle for the communication of science, health, and medical information about COVID-19 to children. Findings from this research showed that primary characters appearing in children's educational YouTube videos about COVID-19 were most often adults, with about an equal number of men and women and few characters from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Primary characters frequently demonstrated and modeled protective health measures. Adult expert characters (medical professionals and scientists) appeared to some extent in these videos. Directive discourse frames appeared most frequently, followed by the informative and persuasive discourse frames when communicating scientific and health information. Changes in the use of informative, directive, and persuasive frames before and after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced guidelines on how to communicate about COVID-19 with children are explored.

Volume 21 • Issue 03 • 2022

May 09, 2022 Article
Does democratizing access to science imply democratizing science? A case study of non-corporate Spanish-speaking science YouTubers

by David Vasquez-Muriel and Jorge M. Escobar-Ortiz

In recent years, access to science content production has been democratized. New actors can make their discourses reach large audiences through popular platforms with no institutional gatekeeping. However, it remains unclear which conceptions of the science-society relationship underlie science content created by non-corporate individuals. To explore how science communication cultures of boosters and critics inform this kind of science content in Spanish, we conducted a qualitative content analysis of a sample of 50 videos from ten YouTube science channels. Our results suggest that more accessible science communication does not necessarily entail a democratized view of science but may reinforce a traditional perspective.

Volume 21 • Issue 03 • 2022