Science and media


This study analyses the image of Italian space activities given by national dailies in the period from February 2001 to July 2002, in order to understand Italians' view of "Italy in space". It also considers the role that space scientific research can play in the communication strategies of Italian space activities in the upcoming years and the possible ways to improve its image through mass media.


Terms such as gmo, genetic tests and pharmacogenomics, which were once used only by experts, belong today to everyday language. The new vocabulary of molecular biology shows an increase in the interest of society in scientific problems, and in particular the recent cultural supremacy of molecular biology. For all of us, the gene symbolizes progress and power, the hope of fighting incurable diseases, and the fear of terrifying genetic manipulations. These aspects become real events and characters in the Human Genome Project. But this great international project has also shown that the relation between science and society is changing. This event can actually be seen as a metaphor of science leaving academic laboratories to settle new areas of society. From economics to sociology, from epistemological discourse to bioethical debate, from medicine to basic research, in all these fields genome becomes the main topic of discussion and food for thought. Public attention to this international project has grown constantly throughout its development, and it peaked when science came into contact with the press.


A survey has been recently carried out for the first time in Italy concerning science communication through the media and the result has been that science hits the headlines. It is often front-page news in the press and it is also often among the main points of the news on TV. This is not very surprising.


This article presents the results of a study carried out in Italy by the Permanent Observatory on science communication through the media. The aim of this research project coordinated by the staff of the Master’s Degree in Science Communication, ISAS, Trieste, in collaboration with Ilesis S.r.l., Rome, is to monitor and analyse systematically the amount of scientific information on TV and in the press.


There is no use denying it: whenever a scientist gets a piece of news in a newspaper or on television concerning his own field of research, eight times out of ten he feels irritated. The reason does not solely depend on the fact that, in his opinion, the news given to the public is often rather inaccurate or centred on secondary aspects, sometimes even distorted. There is actually something more? Something deeper that the scientist can hardly grasp.


"Il ciclotrone" is the weekly science programme of "Radio Popolare - Popolare Network". During the last 12 years, once or twice a month listeners have been able to directly ask questions to the guest scientists in the studios, or to express their point of view on some controversial scientific issue. Phone-ins at Radio Popolare are not filtered; regular and occasional listeners are used to communicate with or through the radio, and in doing so they contribute to the sense of spontaneity which characterise the programmes.


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