Session 1D - Media representations

Room 3.24

Are Science Stories Inherently Boring? Online Public Engagement with Science news Items Authored by Scientists on Two Popular News Sites

Yael Barel-Ben David (Israel Institute of Technology, Israel)

Our study aims to quantitatively characterize audience interactions as an indicator for interest with science news stories authored by scientists trained to function as science reporters, as compared to news items written by reporters and published in the same online news outlets. Our analysis shows no significant differences in the public's engagement with items by the different authors: people did not click, liked or commented more on news items written by organic reporters than on news items that were authored by scientists. These findings constitute an optimistic starting point for filling the void of science journalism by scientists.

“Insect dieback”: the national prelude to an international media event 

Hartmut Kuhlmann (University of the West of England, UK)

In October 2017, PLoSOne published a paper asserting a dramatic decline in insect biomass in Germany. Major news outlets worldwide reported extensively. Beforehand, the private Entomological Society of Krefeld, which provided the data, had published only one unofficial paper on the topic in 2013, and refrained from any media discussions. Yet, discussion of the insect dieback had grown increasingly heated in German media, culminating in summer 2017. Through qualitative interviews, we identified pathways by which the empirical facts percolated into that public debate. PR played only a minor role, information was rather disseminated via networks of experts and institutions.

Brain-Talk: Communicating Neuroscience  

Harris Wiseman (University of Birmingham, UK)

This philosophy of science presentation will explore two contrary discourses about the public perception of neuroscience: a) the popular debate surrounding ‘neurohype’ and its critics, wherein the public is presented as being saturated with, and dangerously misled by this brain-talk; b) discourse suggesting that the general public neither know about neuroscience, nor care to know about it. A positive account of public engagement will be presented, moving away from a predominantly top-down model of ‘knowledge transmission’. Since public policy has increasingly come to draw on neuroscience, the social stakes involved here need to be made publicly accessible and clear.

Beyond the “Spectacle of Discovery”: Communicating Scientific Research on the International Space Station

Paola Castaño (Cardiff University, UK)

This paper examines the understandings of science and discovery in media representations of experiments on the International Space Station (ISS). I argue that there is a prevalent outcome-centered approach to research with a focus on breakthroughs as events and spectacles. Based on ethnographic observations, interviews and documentary analysis, I characterize the general agenda of justification of the ISS, describe two experiments in particle physics and biomedicine, and analyze press releases and reports on these experiments in general and specialized media. I conclude discussing some causes and implications of “the spectacle of discovery” framework and exploring possibilities to move beyond it.