Science and media

20/07/2017

During the course of several decades, several scientists and groups of scientists lobbied the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) about science broadcasting. A consistent theme of the interventions was that science broadcasting should be given exceptional treatment both in its content, which was to have a strongly didactic element, and in its managerial arrangements within the BBC. This privileging of science would have amounted to ‘scientific exceptionalism’. The article looks at the nature of this exceptionalism and broadcasters' responses to it.

20/07/2017

Previous studies have concluded that science coverage in Soviet countries was determined by the ideological function of the media. This paper analyses the science coverage in Soviet Estonian publications Rahva Hääl and Horisont in 1960/1967 and 1980 and demonstrates that the popularization of science existed as an independent function of articles. This suggests that the parallel developments in science communication on both sides of the Iron Curtain deserve further study.

20/07/2017

This contribution concerns the role of the Victorian newspaper correspondence column in advancing knowledge of dermatology in relation to corporal punishment. It explores The Times' coverage of an inquest into the death by flogging of a British soldier. I argue that on the one hand, The Times participated in the debate about flogging in the army by bringing forward skin anatomy as an argument against corporal punishment. On the other hand, the paper might have used the publication of letters with medical content as a marketing strategy to maintain its authority and credibility against accusations of sensationalism.

21/06/2017

Computational social science represents an interdisciplinary approach to the study of reality based on advanced computer tools. From economics to political science, from journalism to sociology, digital approaches and techniques for the analysis and management of large quantities of data have now been adopted in several disciplines. The papers in this JCOM commentary focus on the use of such approaches and techniques in the research on science communication. As the papers point out, the most significant advantages of a computational approach in this sector include the chance to open up a range of new research opportunities: from the study of technical and scientific controversies to citizen science, from the definition of new norms and practices for science journalism to open science issues. On the other hand, difficulties are shared with other areas of application. The main risk is that the large quantity of data available can overwhelm the importance of theory. Instead, as the papers in this commentary demonstrate, big data should push scientists to pursue a deeper epistemological and methodological reflection also in the research on science communication.

09/05/2017

This is a conference review of the 2nd Commemoration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which had the theme Gender, Science and Sustainable Development: The Impact of Media. It was held in United Nations Headquarters, New York City, U.S.A., and a parallel event was held simultaneously in Valetta, Malta. There were 45 listed speakers from 24 countries, with a gender ratio of 2:1 in favour of women. The contribution of the media to socio-cultural barriers facing girls and women in STEM was well-illustrated. However, few actionable solutions were proposed.

28/03/2017

This article proposes a classification of the current differences between online videos produced specifically for television and online videos produced for the Internet, based on online audiovisual production on climate change. The classification, which consists of 18 formats divided into two groups that allow comparisons to be made between television and web formats, was created through the quantitative and qualitative content analysis of a sample of 300 videos. The findings show that online video's capacity to generate visits is greater when it has been designed to be broadcast on the Internet than when produced for television.

06/12/2016

We present an exploratory study of science communication via online video through various UK-based YouTube science content providers. We interviewed five people responsible for eight of the most viewed and subscribed professionally generated content channels. The study reveals that the immense potential of online video as a science communication tool is widely acknowledged, especially regarding the possibility of establishing a dialogue with the audience and of experimenting with different formats. It also shows that some online video channels fully exploit this potential whilst others focus on providing a supplementary platform for other kinds of science communication, such as print or TV.

29/11/2016

Social media is increasingly being used by science communicators, journalists and government agencies to engage in discourse with a range of publics. Despite a growing body of literature on Twitter use, the communication of science via Twitter is comparatively under explored. This paper examines the prominence of scientific issues in political debate occurring on Twitter during the 2013 and 2016 Australian federal election campaigns. Hashtracking of the umbrella political hashtag auspol was used to capture tweets during the two campaign periods. The 2013 campaign was particularly relevant as a major issue for both parties was climate change mitigation, a controversial and partisan issue. Therefore, climate change discussion on Twitter during the 2013 election was used as a focal case study in this research. Subsamples of the 2013 data were used to identify public sentiment and major contributors to the online conversation, specifically seeking to see if scientific, governmental, media or ‘public' sources were the more dominant instigators. We compare the prominence of issues on Twitter to mainstream media polls over the two campaign periods and argue that the potential of Twitter as an effective public engagement tool for science, and for politicised scientific issues in particular, is not being realised.

29/11/2016

This study of the science communication views and practices of African researchers ― academics at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe ― reveals a bleak picture of the low status of public science engagement in the developing world. Researchers prioritise peer communication and pay little attention to the public, policy makers and popular media. Most scientists believe the public is largely not scientifically literate or interested in research. An unstable funding environment, a lack of communication incentives and censoring of politically sensitive findings further constrain researchers' interest in public engagement. Most NUST academics, however, are interested in science communication training. We suggest interventions that could revive and support public science engagement at African universities.

21/10/2016

The phenomenon of lay readers of neuroscience being positively biased by the mere presence of brain images (fMRI), has been hotly debated, with recent failures to replicate the phenomenon, and suggestions that context is important. We experimentally investigated the potentially biasing effect of neuroimagery on participants' beliefs and explored an important facet of context within a neuroscience article: whether the article was supportive or critical of fMRI use in detecting states of mind. Results supported recent arguments that a “neurorealism” effect may in part be an artifact of experimental design; but we also report evidence that context may be critical.

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