Science and media


A comprehensive treatise on science communication from the perspectives of scholars of multiple disciplines, this book contributes a unique compendium of virtually all fields of study that have something to say about the theory and practice of public engagement with science. It is an enriching companion for research, teaching and practice of science communication in all its forms.


This article provides a framework for analysing changes and continuities in science communication. The field is challenged by three contexts: (1) ‘post-normal situations’ of coping with uncertainties, value questions, an urgency to take action, and associated political pressures; (2) a dramatically changing media environment, and (3) a polarizing discourse culture. We refine the concept of post-normal science to make it more applicable to analyse public science communication in an era of digital media networks. Focussing on changes in the interactions between scientists and journalists, we identify two ideal types: normal and post-normal science communication, and conclude that the boundaries of science and journalism are blurring and under renegotiation. Scientists and journalists develop new shared role models, norms, and practices. Both groups are increasingly acting as advocates for common goods that emphasize the emerging norms of post-normal science communication: transparency, interpretation, advocacy and participation.


This book review will discuss “Science communication. An introduction”, edited by Frans van Dam, Liesbeth de Bakker, Anne Dijkstra, and Eric Jensen (2020), the first book in the PCST book series. The review will give an overview, a summary, and a criticism of this textbook, which is intended to be used in educational programs in science communication. As will be outlined, the book puts specific emphasis on linking theory, research, and practice, as well as including more perspectives from developing country contexts, and thus provides a valuable contribution to the dynamic field of science communication.


The popularity of the anti-vax movement in the United States and elsewhere is the cause of new lethal epidemics of diseases that are fully preventable by modern medicine [Benecke and DeYoung, 2019]. Creationism creeps into science classrooms with the aim of undermining the teaching of evolution through legal obligations or school boards’ decisions to present both sides of a debate largely foreign to the scientific community [Taylor, 2017]. And one simply has to turn on the TV and watch so-called science channels to be bombarded with aliens, ghosts, cryptids and miracles as though they are undisputable facts [Prothero, 2012]. Deprecated by its detractors, scientific proof is assimilated to become one opinion among others, if not a mere speculation. Worse, scientific data that challenge partisan positions or economic interests are dismissed as ‘junk science’ and their proponents as ‘shills’ [Oreskes and Conway, 2010]. By echoing such statements, some members of the media, often willing accomplices in conflating denial and scepticism, amplify manufactured controversies and cast growing doubt upon scientific credibility.


Verbal probability phrases are often used in science communication to express estimated risks in words instead of numbers. In this study we look at how laypeople and statisticians interpret Dutch probability phrases that are regularly used in news articles. We found that there is a large variability in interpretations, even if the phrases are given in a neutral context. Also, statisticians do not agree on the interpretation of the phrases. We conclude that science communicators should be careful in using verbal probability expressions.


Who speaks for “citizen science” on Twitter? Which territory of citizen science have they made visible so far? This paper offers the first description of the community of users who dedicate their online social media identity to citizen science. It shows that Twitter users who identify with the term “citizen science” are mostly U.S. science professionals in environmental sciences, and rarely projects' participants. In contrast to the original concept of “citizen science”, defined as a direct relationship between scientists and lay participants, this paper makes visible a third category of individual actors, mostly women, who connect these lay participants and scientists: the “citizen science broker”.


When it comes to complex topics in the field of health and risk communication, experts are of high importance for the credibility of a news media report. This paper examines the use of experts and their roles in the news media coverage of multi-resistant pathogens by means of a quantitative content analysis of German print and online news. A cluster analysis of the expert statements identifies three different statement frames describing different expert roles. The results show manifest patterns of selected expert sources, which points to professionalized mechanisms of selecting expert sources for news media reports.


In recent times we have allegedly witnessed a “post-truth” turn in society. Nonetheless, surveys show that science holds a relatively strong position among lay publics, and case studies suggest that science is part of their online discussions about environmental issues on social media — an important, yet strikingly under-researched, debate forum. Guided by social representation theory, this study aims to contribute knowledge about the role of science in everyday representations of livestock production on social media. The analysis identifies two central themata, namely lay publics' contestations of (1) facts and non-facts, and (2) factual and non-factual sources.


This research develops a conceptual framework for telling visual stories about science using short-format videos, termed SciCommercial videos, that draw upon marketing communication. The framework is illustrated by an exemplar, the Good Whale Watching video, which is explained using a visual rhetoric keyframe analysis. Finally, the effectiveness of the video is evaluated as a science communication tool using an empirical online survey with 1698 respondents. The results highlight the benefits of using video for storytelling about science by using our framework formula, modified from marketing practices, to produce videos that are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Science Storytelling (SUCCESS).


Science and technology have become tools to legitimize messages that affect the world in terms of society, politics and economy. This paper presents part of the results of a study that analyzed the symbolic construction of the future in the scientific-technological discourse at EPCOT theme park in Orlando, Florida. The sociohistorical conditions and narrative strategies are analyzed based on the theoretical and methodological approach by John B. Thompson. The results highlighted that the construction of the notion of progress is strongly influenced by the commercial and political interests of the sponsors. In particular, the ‘Test Track’ ride totally lacks any discussion about the impact of cars on society and the environment. The future is presented as a utopian one without any possible disruption, a perception that permeated the development of the United States over the 20th century and is promoted even in the 21st century despite the evidence provided by multiple wars and crises.


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