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Communication Science Communication
by
Sharon Dunwoody

Introduction

Science-communication scholarship focuses on the hows, whys, and impacts of science messages aimed at nonscientific audiences. This popular audience emphasis distinguishes science communication from technical communication, which privileges audiences who work within scientific disciplines and who can negotiate the languages relevant to those disciplines. Science communication, in contrast, assumes an audience without expertise and, importantly, without a priori interest in the topic at hand. Thus, the field places great emphasis on aspects of messages that explain complex concepts and processes, that lure audiences through narrative—both verbal and visual—and that attend to the complex interplay of evidence with other variables that influence lay audiences’ understanding of such things as controversial science issues. Since most audiences are quite removed from the scientific arena, this field has invested heavily in studying the role of mediated science messages—those narratives carried in mass media channels such as newspapers, television, radio, and now the Internet. That, in turn, has led to a large literature on the nature of relationships among the primary actors in the generation of those messages: scientists and information providers such as science journalists. In addition, the sustained global investment in science has led scientists and societies at large to problematize science literacy, and that has catalyzed much research on the effects of popularized science messages on individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, and (rarely) behaviors. The sections that follow will focus on research that speaks to these issues. This entry tries to avoid studies of environmental or health communication, despite the obvious overlap. It also avoids book chapters, which are harder for users to access. The entry also includes a number of important products generated by scholars outside of the United States but, regretfully, does not include work published in languages other than English. Rather than chop the literature into “hot topics” (i.e., nanotechnology, genetically modified food, stem cells), this entry categorizes by concepts and processes.

General Overviews

Overviews of the field of science communication have proliferated in recent years. While one can find the rare synthesis of available research, as in Weingold 2001, and the even more rare critical essayist in Dornan 1990, other contributions such as Brossard, et al. 2007 and Friedman, et al. 1988 work within a topical scaffolding. Several of the newer entries such as Bucchi and Trench 2008, Cheng, et al. 2008, and Kahlor and Stout 2010 articulate as their raison d’être the maturation of the field, a process that they feel now calls for the creation of a distinct subfield of communication. Nisbet and Scheufele 2007 provides a look at communication of modern scientific issues as part of a call to arms to scientists, and National Science Board 2010 reflects a compilation of recent data on public understanding of science in the United States. While Gregory and Miller 1998 was, for many years, the best overview of the public-communication domain, a new volume from the National Academies (Bell, et al. 2009) now holds pride of place and will be heavily cited for years to come.

  • Bell, Philip, Bruce Lewenstein, Andrew W. Shouse, and Michael A. Feder, eds. 2009. Learning science in informal environments: People, places, and pursuits. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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    Mass-media channels are one of many possible learning venues explored in this comprehensive National Academies report. The volume provides an excellent overview of science-communication-research findings.

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  • Brossard, Dominique, James Shanahan, and T. Clint Nesbitt, eds. 2007. The media, the public, and agricultural biotechnology. Wallingford, UK: CABI.

    DOI: 10.1079/9781845932046.0000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contributors to this volume place popular representations of agricultural biotechnology—primarily those in the mass media—into both theoretical and practical contexts.

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  • Bucchi, Massimiano, and Brian Trench, eds. 2008. Handbook of public communication of science and technology. London: Routledge.

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    This text makes an argument for science communication as a distinct intellectual domain, and its international cast of chapter authors tries to build a map of the field.

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  • Cheng, Donghong, Michel Claessens, Nicholas Gascoigne, Jenni Metcalfe, Bernard Schiele, and Shi Shunke, eds. 2008. Communicating science in social contexts: New models, new practices. New York: Springer.

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    This product of scholars active in the international network Public Communication of Science and Technology seeks to revisit existing theoretical models and to suggest both modified and new ones for science-communication research.

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  • Dornan, Christopher. 1990. Some problems in conceptualizing the issue of “science and the media.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 7.1:48–71.

    DOI: 10.1080/15295039009360163Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The essay calls into question the assumptions underlying what the author calls “the dominant discourse on science and the media” and argues that it has worked not only to promote media science coverage that privileges scientific interests but also to inhibit critical appraisal of science and of popular science communication.

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  • Friedman, Sharon M., Sharon Dunwoody, and Carol L. Rogers, eds. 1988. Scientists and journalists: Reporting science as news. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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    One of the earlier overviews of science journalism in the United States, this volume reflects on research and commentary from both researchers and practitioners.

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  • Gregory, Jane, and Steve Miller. 1998. Science in public: Communication, culture, and credibility. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books.

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    The two authors seek to provide a broad look at what publics think of science, what scientists think of publics, and how media coverage of science brings the two into the same orbit.

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  • Kahlor, LeeAnn, and Patricia A. Stout, eds. 2010. Communicating science: New agendas in communication. New York: Routledge.

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    A conference featuring the work of young, promising science-communication scholars in the United States was the catalyst for this book.

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  • National Science Board. 2010. Science and Engineering Indicators 2010. NSB 10-01. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.

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    Chapter 7 of this massive volume provides a useful synthesis of much recent data on public interest in, knowledge of, and attitudes about science in the United States. These overviews are published every two years, and the user will find earlier versions on the National Science Foundation website as well, making comparisons over time possible.

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  • Nisbet, Matthew C., and Dietram A. Scheufele. 2007. The future of public engagement. The Scientist 21.10: 171–192.

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    Scientists must learn how to frame their work for public consumption, according to these two researchers, who provide analysis of research results from such arenas as stem-cell research, plant biotechnology, and nanotechnology in service to their case.

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  • Weigold, Michael F. 2001. Communicating science: A review of the literature. Science Communication 23.2: 164–193.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547001023002005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author organizes this overview of the science-communication research literature around the main actors, among them news organizations and journalists, public relations practitioners, and scientists.

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Journals

Two niche journals dominate the science-communication field and scholarship gravitates strongly to them. While science communication research finds its way into a wide array of both communication and science journals, Public Understanding of Science and Science Communication currently serve as the “go-to” spots for this work. Public Understanding of Science is the more international of the two, while Science Communication seeks to provide a wider array of material, from research reports to summaries of major meetings.

  • Public Understanding of Science. 1

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    Started in 1992, this international journal publishes scholarship that explores the broad arena of public understanding, including the communication of science to nonscientists. Its subhead declares it to be “An International Journal of Research in the Public Dimensions of Science and Technology.” Editors have come from a variety of countries, enhancing the international nature of the publication.

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  • Science Communication.

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    A journal originally titled Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilization morphed into Science Communication in 1994, with volume 16. Also an international journal, it focuses on communication aspects of the public engagement with science and seeks to inform both scholars and communication professionals.

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History

A small number of historians have offered welcome context to the field. Marcel C. LaFollette has carefully explored the presentation of science in several mainstream media channels, as seen in LaFollette 1990 and LaFollette 2008. Lewenstein 1992 provides a look at overt and covert motivations for public-science communication over the decades. And with the publication of Bowler 2009, an interesting historical debate has been joined between the Bowler work and perhaps the most influential historical book in the field, Burnham 1987, which offers a look at US scientists’ popularization activities in the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • Bowler, Peter J. 2009. Science for all: The popularization of science in early twentieth-century Britain. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Tracking efforts to popularize science in the UK, this historian counters accepted history by arguing that productive scientists were actively engaged in popularization activities during the early part of the 20th century, a time that other historians (see Burnham 1987) argue was marked by the retreat of science from such activities.

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  • Burnham, John C. 1987. How superstition won and science lost: Popularizing science and health in the United States. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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    One of the more important efforts to capture the history of popularization in the 19th- and 20th-century United States, the book argues that scientists were much more engaged in public communication in the 19th century than in the 20th, leaving science communication to journalists in the latter century.

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  • LaFollette, Marcel C. 1990. Making science our own: Public images of science, 1910–1955. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    The book traces the construction of public attitudes about science by examining how science and scientists were presented in mass circulation magazines in the United States during the first half of the 20th century.

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  • LaFollette, Marcel C. 2008. Science on the air: Popularizers and personalities on radio and early television. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    LaFollette chronicles the efforts of science popularizers in the United States during the first decades of the broadcasting era, from 1923 to the mid-1950s. She is particularly attentive to the juxtaposition of scientists’ ideals and the demands of the new broadcasting mediums.

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  • Lewenstein, Bruce V. 1992. The meaning of “public understanding of science” in the United States after World War II. Public Understanding of Science 1.1: 45–68.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/1/1/009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interest in the public understanding of science burgeoned after World War II, but this historian argues that those working in the field viewed “understanding” as synonymous with “appreciation” and forged coalitions to popularize science with the goal of increasing public support for science.

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Message Content

As with all communication domains, this subfield is full of efforts to characterize the nature of science-communication messages through content analysis and more qualitative “deep readings” of narratives. Much of the early work was atheoretical and is not included here. Instead, this part of the entry will provide an initial section, Concepts and Categorizations, privileging studies of science message content that rely on conceptual frameworks. It will then move on to two more specific sections, one focusing on an ongoing concern in the field, the Accuracy of mediated science messages, and the other attending to work that explores explanatory communication strategies within the genre Explanation.

Concepts and Categorizations

The concept of “framing” is ubiquitous in the studies cited in this section. This is as it should be, as frames, if handled skillfully, are indeed relevant ways of characterizing content. Einsiedel 1992 is an early entry in this corpus, but it has been followed by a number of others, such as Trumbo 1996, McComas, et al. 1999, Nisbet, et al. 2003, and Ten Eyck, et al. 2003b. Several studies also seek to understand how coverage shifts over time, a number of them by employing Downs’s issue-attention cycle such as McComas, et al. 1999, Nisbet, et al. 2003, Ten Eyck, et al. 2003a, and Trumbo 1996. Boyce, et al. 2009 is a recent European contribution that seeks to characterize coverage of climate change. In a very different vein, Long, et al. 2001 and Steinke 2005 explore the ways in which mass media, including movies, characterize scientists. This last genre is part of a growing literature seeking to understand the ways in which media representations of scientists influence the motivations of individuals (mainly members of underrepresented groups) to become scientists.

  • Boyce, Tammy, and Justin Lewis, eds. 2009. Climate change and the media. New York: Peter Lang.

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    Contributions to this edited text come primarily from European scholars and focus on the ways in which the mass media have both reflected the ongoing climate change issue and, in many ways, helped to build social concepts of it.

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  • Einsiedel, Edna. 1992. Framing science and technology in the Canadian press. Public Understanding of Science 1.1: 89–101.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/1/1/011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This large content analysis of science coverage in seven major Canadian daily newspapers looked at story tone and the extent to which stories share the process of science.

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  • Long, Marilee, Greg Boiarsky, and Greg Thayer. 2001. Gender and racial counter-stereotypes in science education television: A content analysis. Public Understanding of Science 10:255–269.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/10/3/301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An analysis of characters in four children’s science programs sought patterns in the use of female and minority scientists. Of particular interest were differences in gender and ethnicity of the “resident” scientists on the show relative to “visiting” scientists who appeared in specific segments.

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  • McComas, Katherine, and James Shanahan. 1999. Telling stories about global climate change: Measuring the impact of narratives on issue cycles. Communication Research 26.1: 30–57.

    DOI: 10.1177/009365099026001003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this content analysis of media coverage of climate change in the New York Times and the Washington Post, the investigators explore story frames over the course of fifteen years in an effort to understand the cyclical nature of media coverage of the story.

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  • Nisbet, Matthew C., Dominique Brossard, and Adrianne Kroepsch. 2003. Framing science: The stem cell controversy in an age of press/politics. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 8.2: 36–70.

    DOI: 10.1177/1081180X02251047Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using content analysis data of two large newspapers between 1975 and 2001, this study looked for factors that seemed to encourage media attention. Nisbet has made “frame” a central focus of study, so the reader should search out additional efforts by this scholar.

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  • Steinke, Jocelyn. 2005. Cultural representations of gender and science. Science Communication 27.1: 27–63.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547005278610Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This analysis of popular films depicting scientists that were released between 1991 and 2001 sought to characterize the role of women scientists in those dramas.

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  • Ten Eyck, Toby A., and Melissa Williment. 2003a. The more things change. . . : Milk pasteurization, food irradiation, and biotechnology in the New York Times. Social Science Journal 41:29–41.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2003.10.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using the journalists-as-interpretive-communities perspective, the authors look for change in trajectories of coverage and sources employed to cover three long-running issues. The title provides a good clue as to what they found.

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  • Ten Eyck, Toby A., and Melissa Williment. 2003b. The national media and things genetic. Science Communication 25.2: 129–152.

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    This analysis of more than 2,700 articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post explores the frames employed for different genetics issues, from scientific research to food to medicine.

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  • Trumbo, Craig. 1996. Constructing climate change: Claims and frames in US news coverage of an environmental issue. Public Understanding of Science 5.3: 269–283.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/5/3/006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using Downs’s issue-attention cycle, this analysis tracks the ebb and flow of climate change frames in five national newspapers over the course of a decade.

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Accuracy

The most common critique of science coverage in the mass media is that it is inaccurate. As a result, a literature has grown that seeks to better understand what about these narratives may be flawed. Tankard and Ryan 1974, an early study, illustrates a standard methodology for this genre: Send science stories back to the sources, who then determine what is accurate and what is not. More recent studies such as Bell 1994 also follow this path. Singer 1990 is an excellent example of a study that compares original science texts with mediated ones. A classic study, Tichenor, et al. 1970, adopts a different approach—never replicated—that introduces audience interpretations into the evaluative mix and, appropriately, calls into question simplistic notions of what accuracy means and who gets to define it. Research that bolsters this more complex interpretation of accuracy includes Broberg 1973, Dunwoody 1982, and Mellor 2009.

  • Bell, Allan. 1994. Media (mis)communication on the science of climate change. Public Understanding of Science 3.3: 259–275.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/3/3/002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The principal investigator collected climate-change stories from New Zealand newspapers and, consonant with the typical accuracy study, sent them to the scientists quoted for accuracy feedback. The percentage of reasonably accurate stories was quite high in this study.

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  • Broberg, K. 1973. Scientists’ stopping behavior as indicators of writer’s skill. Journalism Quarterly 50:763–767.

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    What types of corrections do scientists make when they have the opportunity to “fix” inaccurate components of stories about themselves? This study found some surprising answers.

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  • Dunwoody, Sharon. 1982. A question of accuracy. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 25.4: 196–199.

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    This overview of the extant inaccuracy studies explores the possibility that charges of inaccuracy—similar to charges of bias—tell one more about the accuser than about the accused.

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  • Mellor, Felicity. 2009. The politics of accuracy in judging global warming films. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture 3.2: 134–150.

    DOI: 10.1080/17524030902916574Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Two documentaries about global warming—An Inconvenient Truth and The Great Global Warming Swindle—became subject to legal and regulatory challenges in the United Kingdom. This analysis sought to understand the effects of a “discourse of accuracy” that accompanied the brouhaha.

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  • Singer, Eleanor. 1990. A question of accuracy: How journalists and scientists report research on hazards. Journal of Communication 40.4: 102–116.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1990.tb02284.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The researcher selected stories from both print and broadcast outlets whose references to scientific studies permitted comparisons between the original work and the popular accounts.

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  • Tankard, James W., and Michael Ryan. 1974. News source perceptions of accuracy of science coverage. Journalism Quarterly 51:219–225, 334.

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    A classic study of science-communication accuracy, this project sent stories back to the scientist-sources for their determination of what was correct and what was not.

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  • Tichenor, Phillip J., Clarice N. Olien, Annette Harrison, and George Donohue. 1970. Attitudes and mass media learning about two environmental issues. Journalism Quarterly 47:673–683.

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    In an effort to reconceptualize “accuracy,” this study asked readers to summarize the contents of media science stories, then sent those summaries to the scientist-sources with a request for accuracy feedback.

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Explanation

Communicating science to lay audiences depends on storytelling devices and the ability to explain complicated concepts and processes. One established scholar, Katherine Rowan (as seen in Rowan 1988 and Rowan 1990), has long dominated the small literature that explores ways to explain science, although Long 1995 is also illustrative. Yaros 2006 captures the debut of a new scholar devoted to studying explanation.

  • Long, Marilee. 1995. Scientific explanation in US newspaper science stories. Public Understanding of Science 4.2: 119–130.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/4/2/002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The investigator went looking for explanatory strategies in science stories published by some one hundred US newspapers and found that the majority of those stories provided surprisingly little. The study explores a number of possible explanatory factors for this pattern.

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  • Rowan, Katherine E. 1988. A contemporary theory of explanatory writing. Written Communication 5.1: 23–56.

    DOI: 10.1177/0741088388005001002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this seminal piece, Rowan lays out a framework for aligning explanation of science concepts and processes with the needs of audiences. That framework, derived from work in science education, has become a template for both research and teaching.

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  • Rowan, Katherine E. 1990. Cognitive correlates of explanatory writing skill: An analysis of individual differences. Written Communication 7.3: 316–341.

    DOI: 10.1177/0741088390007003002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This analysis explores the role of factors such as a writer’s knowledge of the topic and “discourse” strategies on science explanations.

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  • Yaros, Ronald A. 2006. Is it the medium or the message? Structuring complex news to enhance engagement and situational understanding by nonexperts. Communication Research 33.4: 285–309.

    DOI: 10.1177/0093650206289154Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author argues that traditional journalistic story structures do not maximize learning, and he conducts an experimental comparison between the inverted pyramid and an explanatory structure-building model for science news.

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Message Outcomes

As is the case with all communication subfields, research in science communication is dominated by the search for message impacts. The subsections that follow remain true to a focus on science messages, thus leaving aside copious work focusing on the influence of environmental, health, and risk messages. If the reader dabbles in these other areas, the conceptual and methodological overlaps will become apparent. The first subsection will offer studies of Knowledge Gaps in science understanding. A second subsection, Science Literacy, will look at communication studies relevant to the long-running question of the extent to which lay individuals can learn enough to be scientifically literate. In the third subsection, Media-Effects Models, the reader will find studies that employ multivariate models to evaluate the role of media science use on knowledge among the welter of other factors (i.e., socioeconomic status, values) that will play a role. The next subsection will employ similar models but with a different end point: science message Influence on Attitudes and Beliefs. And the final subsection, Controversies, will explore the effects on audiences of a subset of science stories: media coverage of controversial science.

Knowledge Gaps

One of the most productive areas for communication scholars has been studying who among audiences is more likely to learn from popular messages. The knowledge-gap argument is that those who can afford to access information and who have the education to interpret it will benefit most from messages, and the literature supports that contention. A few studies have focused on science learning, among them the seminal articulation of the knowledge gap by Tichenor, et al. 1970. Both Bonfadelli 2005 and Corley and Scheufele 2010 reinforce the power of the concept in the present day.

  • Bonfadelli, Heinz. 2005. Mass media and biotechnology knowledge gaps within and between European countries. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 17.1: 42–62.

    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edh056Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In an effort to explore the knowledge-gap concept at a macro level, the researcher compared knowledge gaps regarding biotechnology across twelve European countries to see if factors such as media use and education can be detected as players at the level of country.

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  • Corley, Elizabeth A., and Dietram A. Scheufele. 2010. Outreach going wrong? When we talk nano to the public we are leaving behind key audiences. The Scientist 24.1: 22.

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    Some individuals are indeed learning about nanotechnology, this piece argues, but they are a highly educated subset who are leaving behind less well-educated Americans. The authors consider whether this knowledge gap may be countered by effective use of Internet communication.

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  • Tichenor, Phillip J., George A. Donohue, and Clarice N. Olien. 1970. Mass media flow and differential growth in knowledge. Public Opinion Quarterly 34:159–170.

    DOI: 10.1086/267786Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The knowledge-gap hypothesis proposes that acquisition of knowledge is socially directed in that those with greater social resources have more access to information and, thus, tend to learn more when information is available. This first articulation of the popular hypothesis explored its ramifications using three science issues: the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, efforts to journey to the moon, and the proposed link between cigarettes and lung cancer.

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Science Literacy

Although science-literacy scholars have been engaged in a long-running kerfuffle over what it means to be scientifically literate, the studies chosen here will not explicate that controversy, although the reader will detect whiffs of it in a number of the pieces. Instead, these entries focus on the role of media accounts in science literacy. Miller 1998 makes an argument for the integral role of media representations in defining a specific type of science literacy, while Brossard and Shanahan 2006 proposes embedding media representations of science more centrally in science-literacy measurements. Wynne 1989 and Irwin and Wynne 2003 propose a more situational definition of science literacy.

  • Brossard, Dominique, and James Shanahan. 2006. Do they know what they read? Building a scientific literacy measurement instrument based on science media coverage. Science Communication 28.1: 47–63.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547006291345Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors propose to explore civic science literacy by testing for comprehension of scientific terms and processes prevalent in media accounts. They develop a “media scientific literacy instrument” by extracting from media stories the most frequently used scientific and technical terms and then conduct a pilot test of the instrument on undergraduate students.

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  • Irwin, Alan, and Brian Wynne, eds. 2003. Misunderstanding science? The public reconstruction of science and technology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    This set of offerings explores the interaction between informal science education and scientific expertise in lay individuals’ understanding of science and technology. One goal of the volume is to illustrate the ways in which what science “means” to various audiences is socially negotiated.

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  • Miller, Jon. 1998. The measurement of civic scientific literacy. Public Understanding of Science 7:203–223.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/7/3/001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the dominant players in the world of science literacy, Miller makes an argument in this article on behalf of something he calls “civic scientific literacy,” which he defines as a level of scientific understanding that would allow an individual to understand media science accounts. The piece goes on to reflect on ways to operationalize that construct.

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  • Wynne, Brian. 1989. Sheepfarming after Chernobyl. Environment 31.2: 10–39.

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    This is one of several articles reflecting on Wynne’s now iconic study of sheep farmers’ efforts to cope with radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. The incident illustrates the difficulty of conveying technical information during crises, as well as the ability of nonscientists to learn effectively about specific science concepts and processes when they need to do so.

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Media-Effects Models

No single conceptual model dominates the literature on the effects of science messages on learning. Swinehart and McLeod 1960 was one of the first studies to examine learning over time, while Kahlor and Rosenthal 2009 focuses on the role of information seeking and Nisbet, et al. 2002 adopts a multivariate approach to the problem. Southwell and Torres 2006 offers an important look at the interaction between mass media use and interpersonal discussion, and Steinke, et al. 2007 looks for links between depictions of scientists in the mass media and children’s understanding of who is a scientist.

  • Kahlor, LeeAnn, and Sonny Rosenthal. 2009. If we seek, do we learn? Predicting knowledge of global warming. Science Communication 30.3: 380–414.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547008328798Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using a variant of the risk-information seeking and processing model (RISP), this national survey sought to see if global-warming learning might be linked to such factors as effortful information seeking, use of several media sources, and level of education.

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  • Nisbet, Matthew C., Dietram A.Scheufele, James Shanahan, Patricia Moy, Dominique Brossard, and Bruce V. Lewenstein. 2002. Knowledge, reservations, or promise? A media effects model for public perceptions of science and technology. Communication Research 29.5: 584–608.

    DOI: 10.1177/009365002236196Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using a national survey of Americans, Nisbet and colleagues test the proposition that media channels can mediate science knowledge and beliefs. The focus on television science narratives here is particularly important.

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  • Southwell, Brian G., and Alicia Torres. 2006. Connecting interpersonal and mass communication: Science news exposure, perceived ability to understand science, and conversation. Communication Monographs 73.3: 334–350.

    DOI: 10.1080/03637750600889518Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This experiment explores whether exposure to television science messages influences perceived ability to understand science and prompts discussion among individuals about science and technology.

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  • Steinke, Jocelyn, Maria Knight Lapinski, Nikki Crocker, Aletta Zietsman-Thomas, Yaschica Williams, Stephanie Higdon Evergreen, and Sarvani Kuchibhotla. 2007. Assessing media influences on middle school–aged children’s perceptions of women in science using the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST). Science Communication 29.1: 35–64.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547007306508Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Does viewing media depictions of scientists influence children’s perceptions of who a scientist might be? The investigators thought so but also added to such viewing a discussion of gender stereotypes in an experimental design. This team has been one of the more prominent groups studying the role of media representations on children’s perceptions.

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  • Swinehart, James W, and Jack M. McLeod. 1960. News about science channels, audiences, and effects. Public Opinion Quarterly 24.4: 583–589.

    DOI: 10.1086/266974Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Landmark pre- and post-Sputnik launch surveys provided the fodder for this analysis. The authors explored the relationships between the copious news coverage and audience learning. This was one of the earliest studies of media impacts on science knowledge to utilize data gathered over time.

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Influence on Attitudes and Beliefs

The challenge for many of the studies of science-message effects on attitudes and beliefs has been to actually find a direct link. The more common pattern, in fact, is for messages to play more of an indirect, supporting role. Elliott and Rosenberg 1987 was one of the earliest efforts to look for direct impacts. More modern efforts can be found in Scheufele and Lewenstein 2005 and Hwang and Southwell 2009. Besley, et al. 2006 offers a fresh direction by examining the influence of media accounts on perceptions of the fairness of scientists. Other important mediators of the link between science messages and attitudes include deference to scientific authority in Brossard and Nisbet 2006, religiosity in Brossard, et al. 2009, and existing beliefs in Peters 2000 and Zhao 2009. Trumbo 1995 offers a rare search for causal links between information and attitudes with respect to global warming over time.

  • Besley, John C., Katherine A. McComas, and Leah Waks. 2006. Media use and the perceived justice of local science authorities. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 83.4: 801–818.

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    Residents of two New York counties that host substantial technological installations were queried by mail in order to explore the relationship between attention to science news in the media and perceptions of the fairness of local scientists. This team is breaking new ground in studies of the extent to which scientists can foster public perceptions of fairness through communication behaviors.

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  • Brossard, Dominique, and Matthew C. Nisbet. 2006. Deference to scientific authority among a low information public: Understanding US opinion on agricultural biotechnology. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 19.1: 24–52.

    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edl003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Although science knowledge played a modest role in New York State residents’ attitudes about the use of biotechnology in agriculture, deference to scientific authority was hypothesized to be a major actor in predicting support.

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  • Brossard, Dominque, Dietram A. Scheufele, Eunkyung Kim, and Bruce V. Lewenstein. 2009. Religiosity as a perceptual filter: Examining processes of opinion formation about nanotechnology. Public Understanding of Science 18.5: 546–558.

    DOI: 10.1177/0963662507087304Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Strength of religious beliefs was the primary mediator explored in this study of the relationship between knowledge of nanotechnology and support for nanotechnology funding.

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  • Elliott, William E., and William L. Rosenberg. 1987. Media exposure and beliefs about science and technology. Communication Research 14.2: 164–188.

    DOI: 10.1177/009365087014002002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using media-dependency theory and a sample of Philadelphia residents, the researchers explored whether exposure to mediated science information had differential influences on beliefs depending on the channel (newspapers vs. television) employed. This was one of the earliest studies in the United States to explore links between media use and beliefs about science.

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  • Hwang, Yoori, and Brian G. Southwell. 2009. Science TV news exposure predicts science beliefs: Real world effects among a national sample. Communication Research 36.5: 724–742.

    DOI: 10.1177/0093650209338912Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Calling on social-representation theory, which examines how individuals’ beliefs are formed and modified by existing social discourses, the authors explored the impact of television science stories.

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  • Peters, Hans Peter. 2000. The committed are hard to persuade: Recipients’ thoughts during exposure to newspaper and TV stories on genetic engineering and their effect on attitudes. New Genetics and Society 19.3: 365–381.

    DOI: 10.1080/713687608Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    During and after reading several articles about genetic engineering, participants wrote down their thoughts about the topic. Analysis of those data looked for the impact of existing beliefs.

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  • Scheufele, Dietram A., and Bruce V. Lewenstein. 2005. The public and nanotechnology: How citizens make sense of emerging technologies. Journal of Nanoparticle Research 7:659–667.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11051-005-7526-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The cognitive-miser model suggests that individuals take shortcuts in learning by engaging in a form of superficial information seeking and processing. The investigators looked for that behavior in this study of the link between media coverage of nanotechnology and attitudes toward the technology.

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  • Trumbo, Craig. 1995. Longitudinal modeling of public issues: An application of the agenda-setting process to the issue of global warming. Journalism & Mass Communication Monographs 152:1–57.

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    An important longitudinal study, this analysis looks at the impacts of media coverage and scientific attention to global warming on both public and policymakers’ perceptions of the issue between 1985 and 1993.

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  • Zhao, Xiaoquan. 2009. Media use and global warming perceptions: A snapshot of the reinforcing spirals. Communication Research 36.5: 698–723.

    DOI: 10.1177/0093650209338911Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study employs a national sample of US adults to test the “reinforcing spirals model,” which posits that the beliefs and channel choices of audience members interact with the messages themselves to produce differential effects.

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Controversies

Much of what counts as scientific knowledge is contested. Such knowledge is, by definition, dominated by uncertainty, by how individuals manage what they don’t know. This section reflects literature that examines the effects of media coverage of scientific controversy on audiences’ knowledge and attitudes. The reader will see “hot button” issues in abundance here, among them biotechnology, global warming, and embryonic stem cells. Corbett and Durfee 2004 is one of the few efforts to explore the impact of coverage of controversy on audience perceptions of the uncertainty of the science. Gutteling 2005 offers an important test of an argument articulated in Mazur 1981 about the role of volume of coverage of scientific controversy on attitudes. A set of studies cited below tackles a growing interest in the role of values as mediators of the effects of controversy stories (Ho, et al. 2008, Nisbet 2005, Nisbet and Goidel 2007, Peters, et al. 2007). Priest 2001 is unusual in that it captures a program of work focused on the role of messages in attitudes about biotechnology. Finally, Priest, et al. 2003 introduces a novel concept, the trust gap, in an effort to compare attitudes about biotechnology across countries.

  • Corbett, Julia A., and Jessica L. Durfee. 2004. Testing public (un)certainty of science: Media representations of global warming. Science Communication 26.2: 129–151.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547004270234Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the few efforts to measure public responses to journalistic representations of controversy, this experiment manipulated the presence of conflicting points of view in stories to examine its effects on perceived scientific uncertainty.

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  • Gutteling, Jan M. 2005. Mazur’s hypothesis on technology controversy and media. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 17.1: 23–41.

    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edh055Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sociologist Alan Mazur has argued that quantity of coverage about a technological controversy (i.e., a nuclear power accident) is directly linked to public reactions to that controversy (see Mazur 1981). Using Eurobarometer data, the author tests this hypothesis.

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  • Ho, Shirley S., Dominique Brossard, and Dietram A. Scheufele. 2008. Effects of value predispositions, mass media use, and knowledge on public attitudes toward embryonic stem cell research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 20.2: 171–192.

    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edn017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using national data, the authors explored the impact of value predispositions, news-media use, and knowledge on attitudes about a controversial scientific issue. They found that value predispositions (religious beliefs, political ideology, deference to science) were major actors in attitude formation.

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  • Mazur, Allan. 1981. Media coverage and public opinion on scientific controversies. Journal of Communication 31.2: 106–115.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1981.tb01234.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Although the author has published more recent work in this area, this article was an opening salvo in his argument on behalf of a direct link between volume of coverage and public opinion.

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  • Nisbet, Matthew C. 2005. The competition for worldviews: Values, information, and public support for stem cell research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 17.1: 90–112.

    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edh058Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analysis of national survey data looked for mediators of a link between information and support for embryonic stem cell research and found value predispositions to be useful actors.

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  • Nisbet, Matthew C., and Robert K. Goidel. 2007. Understanding citizen perceptions of science controversy: Bridging the ethnographic-survey research divide. Public Understanding of Science 16.4: 421–440.

    DOI: 10.1177/0963662506065558Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    What drives individuals’ attitudes about embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning? This is another look at the role of value predispositions.

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  • Peters, Hans Peter, John T.Lang, Magdalena Sawicka, and William K. Hallman. 2007. Culture and technological innovation: Impact of institutional trust and appreciation of nature on attitudes towards food biotechnology in the USA and Germany. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 19.2: 191–220.

    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edm004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Why do Americans and Germans react differently to the prospect of bioengineered food? Surveys in both countries compared levels of trust in societal institutions such as the law and science, as well as appreciation of nature.

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  • Priest, Susanna Hornig. 2001. A grain of truth: The media, the public, and biotechnology. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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    The author brings together a program of work in this book that explores the role of information in public perceptions of biotechnology. The book focuses on agricultural applications of biotechnology.

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  • Priest, Susanna Hornig, Heinz Bonfadelli, and Maria Rusanen. 2003. The “trust gap” hypothesis: Predicting support for biotechnology across national cultures as a function of trust in actors. Risk Analysis 23.4: 751–766.

    DOI: 10.1111/1539-6924.00353Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This analysis of both US and European survey data offers something called a “trust gap”. It finds a relationship between level of encouragement and what the authors term a “trust gap” between various actors, including the media, consumer organizations, environment groups, and government.

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Message Production

An early and ongoing interest in the characteristics of popularized science messages has led to a strong literature on message production, from studies of scientific sources to analyses of the behavior of science journalists and public information practitioners. This next section is divided into three parts: one focused on scholarship exploring scientists as information sources and as direct popularizers, a second featuring studies of primarily journalistic work (Journalists and Other Information Providers), and a third that examines the information-production process with respect to controversial science issues (Covering Controversies).

Scientists

Scientists have long been regarded as prickly partners in the science news process. Much research has thus been devoted to exploring the nature of their interactions with journalists, as well as factors that might mediate those interactions. An interesting confound between perception and reality persists: scientists tend to subscribe to the argument that their relationship with journalism is intermittent at best, tense, and counterproductive to their needs and those of society, as explored in Hartz and Chappell 1997. Many of the studies below, on the other hand, indicate that scientists and journalists have worked productively with one another for many years, as seen in Dunwoody, et al. 2009, Dunwoody and Scott 1982, Peters 1995, and Peters, et al. 2008. Hilgartner 1990 is one of the seminal reflections on the ways in which scientists may conceptualize popularization, and Bucchi 1998 offers a rich argument about the kinds of pressures that push scientists into the public domain. Goodell 1977 takes a seminal look at the rewards and costs of popularization for a set of well-known scientists who were active in the latter part of the 20th century.

  • Bucchi, Massimiano. 1998. Science and the media: Alternative routes in scientific communication. London: Routledge.

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    This European science-communication scholar reflects on the role of scientists in the popularization of science and, in particular, presents evidence that he thinks disproves the “canonical account” of public communication of science that portrays scientists as distanced experts whose work is mediated (and often distorted) by journalists.

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  • Dunwoody, Sharon, Dominique Brossard, and Anthony Dudo. 2009. Socialization or rewards? Predicting U.S. scientist-media interactions. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 86.2: 299–314.

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    Stem-cell and epidemiological researchers reflected in this national survey on their level of interaction with journalists and on the extent to which they see these encounters as problematic or useful to their work.

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  • Dunwoody, Sharon, and Bryon T. Scott. 1982. Scientists as mass media sources. Journalism Quarterly 59.1: 52–59.

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    Samples of scientists drawn from two universities were queried about the extent and nature of their interactions with journalists.

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  • Goodell, Rae. 1977. The visible scientists. Boston: Little, Brown.

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    A seminal look at scientist-popularizers, this text tracks the benefits and costs of public communication activities for some of the most visible scientists of 1960s.

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  • Hartz, Jim, and Rick Chappell. 1997. Worlds apart: How the distance between science and journalism threatens America’s future. Nashville, TN: First Amendment Center.

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    Surveys of more than 1,400 scientists and journalists explored perceptions of interactions and the quality of media coverage of science. As the title suggested, the authors found the results somewhat alarming. This study, while atheoretical in nature, benefited from good publicity by the funder and so was much cited during its heyday.

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  • Hilgartner, Stephen. 1990. The dominant view of popularization: Conceptual problems, political uses. Social Studies of Science 20:519–539.

    DOI: 10.1177/030631290020003006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This much-cited piece seeks to analyze the ways in which scientists view popularization of science and how those ways may serve science rather than society.

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  • Peters, Hans Peter. 1995. The interaction of journalists and scientific experts: Co-operation and conflict between two professional cultures. Media, Culture & Society 17:31–48.

    DOI: 10.1177/016344395017001003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This survey of German scientists who had recently served as sources of scientific risk information and journalists who wrote risk stories sought to understand the extent to which scientists and journalists share cultural assumptions about journalism and aspects of popular communication of science.

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  • Peters, Hans Peter, Dominique Brossard, Suzanne de Cheveigné, Sharon Dunwoody, Monika Kallfass, Steve Miller, and Shoji Tsuchida. 2008. Science communication: Interactions with the mass media. Science 321.5886: 204–205.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.1157780Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A survey of stem-cell and epidemiological scientists in five countries looked for factors that influence respondents’ interactions with journalists.

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Journalists and Other Information Providers

Questions of how news is constructed have been explored more comprehensively for science news than for most other topical areas save politics. The scientific culture’s strong interest in public literacy has pushed along not only studies of public science knowledge but also analyses of the ways in which science is “packaged” by the mass media. This, in turn, has led to a scholarly focus on science journalists, the primary mediators of popular science information for much of the 20th century. Probably the first comprehensive look at these individuals was provided by Krieghbaum 1967. Studies have dissected the information-construction process through a variety of conceptual lenses: small-group dynamics in Dunwoody 1980; the role of cognitive biases in Trumbo, et al. 1998 and Weiss and Singer 1988; the dominance of science in Kiernan 2006 and Nelkin 1995; and, in contrast, the dominance of journalistic norms in Hornig 1990 and Silverstone 1985. Some scholars have also attended to the role of public-information personnel in the selection and framing of science information; Bauer and Bucchi 2007 offers a recent and excellent reflection on that dimension.

  • Bauer, Martin W., and Massimiano Bucchi, eds. 2007. Journalism, science, and society: Science communication between news and public relations. New York: Routledge.

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    Authors of the chapters here reflect on the ways in which interactions between journalists and public relations practitioners are influencing the construction of science news.

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  • Dunwoody, Sharon. 1980. The science writing “inner club”: A communications link between science and the lay public. Science, Technology, & Human Values 5:14–22.

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    An early study of influential science reporters in the United States, this analysis explored the small-group dynamics of reporters covering a major science meeting who were both each others’ main competitors and good personal friends.

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  • Hornig, Susanna. 1990. Television’s NOVA and the construction of scientific truth. Critical Studies in Mass Communication 7:11–23.

    DOI: 10.1080/15295039009360160Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The United States’ flagship science television series, NOVA, is dissected in this qualitative study, with a particular focus on the ways in which TV’s need to dramatize material can influence the science.

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  • Kiernan, Vincent. 2006. Embargoed science. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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    An exploration of journalists’ reactions to embargoes—scientific journals’ efforts to restrict coverage of new research until the day of journal publication—becomes a wider study of journalistic norms governing science news stories.

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  • Krieghbaum, Hillier. 1967. Science and the Mass Media. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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    This look at the science news production process through the eyes of science journalists of the day is the product of research by someone who may well have been the first professor in the United States to focus on science communication.

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  • Nelkin, Dorothy. 1995. Selling science: How the press covers science and technology. Rev. ed. New York: W. H. Freeman.

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    In this seminal study, first published in 1987 and then updated, sociologist Dorothy Nelkin explores a number of factors that drive mass-media coverage of science, among them journalists’ tendency to reify science and their susceptibility to scientists’ efforts to market their findings.

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  • Silverstone, Roger. 1985. Framing science: The making of a BBC documentary. London: BFI.

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    An important early study of the information-construction process, this ethnography by British sociologist Roger Silverstone tracks the development of a science documentary program from initial research through filming to editing. Of particular interest are the dynamics between scientists and filmmakers that govern the nature of storytelling.

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  • Trumbo, Craig W., Sharon Dunwoody, and Robert J. Griffin. 1998. Journalists, cognition, and the presentation of an epidemiologic study. Science Communication 19.3: 238–265.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547098019003005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A controversy over whether reformulated gas was making Wisconsinites who pumped their own gas sick gave the researchers an opportunity to study the ways in which journalists evaluated the evidence summoned by different actors.

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  • Weiss, Carol H., and Eleanor Singer. 1988. Reporting of social science in the national media. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

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    A systematic look at how journalists discover social-science research and what they do about it. One of the more interesting elements in this book is an examination of the ways in which journalists “define” social-science scholarship.

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Covering Controversies

The salience of scientific controversy has focused much attention on media coverage of these issues, particularly on how journalists choose to represent the uncertainty inherent in determining what’s true. Boykoff 2007 and Boykoff and Boykoff 2004 are part of a series of studies that explore the ways in which the journalistic norm of balancing contested points of view has influenced coverage of global warming over time. Brossard 2009 offers a detailed look at the behavior of both the scientific culture and the media with respect to a single controversy. Dearing 1995 is an important analysis of media coverage of controversies in which one side is dominated by a scientific maverick, or outlier. Friedman, et al. 1999 is a comprehensive exploration of the major actors in media coverage of controversial science. Lewenstein 1995 offers a look at the way in which cold fusion was constructed in the public arena, while McComas and Simone 2003 examines media coverage of scientific conflicts of interest. Nisbet and Huge 2006 is interested in media coverage of controversy over time. Finally, Stocking and Holstein 2009 analyzes journalists’ reactions to scientific uncertainty in the context of large-scale hog farming.

  • Boykoff, Maxwell T. 2007. Flogging a dead norm? Newspaper coverage of anthropogenic climate change in the United States and United Kingdom from 2003 to 2006. Area 39.4: 470–481.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2007.00769.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This comparative analysis explores the practice of the normative journalistic behavior of balancing contested points of view in newspaper coverage of climate change in two countries.

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  • Boykoff, Maxwell T., and Jules M. Boykoff. 2004. Balance as bias: Global warming and the US prestige press. Global Environmental Change 14:125–136.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2003.10.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this first of a series of journal articles, the authors capture journalists’ tendency to “balance” points of view in their stories, thus obscuring the fact that the scientific weight of evidence lies on the side of anthropogenic contributions to global warming.

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  • Brossard, Dominique. 2009. Media, scientific journals and science communication: Examining the construction of scientific controversies. Public Understanding of Science 18.3: 258–274.

    DOI: 10.1177/0963662507084398Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This case study of a brouhaha over the 1988 publication in Nature of a study supporting homeopathy examines the ways in which both the scientific and the popular press handled the ensuing outcry among scientists and subsets of the general public.

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  • Dearing, James W. 1995. Newspaper coverage of maverick science: Creating controversy through balancing. Public Understanding of Science 4:341–361.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/4/4/002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this analysis of three science controversies dominated by the efforts of scientific outliers who advocated for minority perspectives (a 1990 earthquake prediction, an alternate theory about the cause of AIDS, and cold fusion), Dearing explored the reaction of journalists.

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  • Friedman, Sharon M., Sharon Dunwoody, and Carol L. Rogers, eds. 1999. Communicating uncertainty: Media coverage of new and controversial science. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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    This edited volume reflects on patterns of behavior among scientists, journalists, and audiences confronted with contested scientific “facts” and high-uncertainty environments. Both science-communication scholars and communication professionals contributed chapters.

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  • Lewenstein, Bruce V. 1995. From fax to facts: Communication in the cold fusion saga. Social Studies of Science 25:403–436.

    DOI: 10.1177/030631295025003001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This historian’s careful look at communication patterns during the 1989 cold-fusion saga tracked the ways in which both scientists and journalists coped with conflicting information and information vacuums in the early days of the controversy.

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  • McComas, Katherine A., and Leah M. Simone. 2003. Media coverage of conflicts of interest in science. Science Communication 24.4: 395–419.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547003024004001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Scientists worry that airing science’s dirty laundry in the media will damage the public credibility of science. This initial effort to explore that question evaluated media coverage of stories about instances in which scientists’ conflicts of interest bubbled into the public domain.

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  • Nisbet, Matthew C., and Mike Huge. 2006. Attention cycles and frames in the plant biotechnology debate. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 11.2: 3–40.

    DOI: 10.1177/1081180X06286701Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The investigators propose a “model of mediated issue development” that incorporates Downs’s issue-attention cycle with a number of journalistic production contingencies in a study of frames employed in stories about plant biotechnology.

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  • Stocking, S. Holly, and Lisa W. Holstein. 2009. Manufacturing doubt: Journalists’ roles and the construction of ignorance in a scientific controversy. Public Understanding of Science 18:23–42.

    DOI: 10.1177/0963662507079373Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Large-scale hog farming in North Carolina is the focus of this case study. The authors interviewed scientists, journalists, and activists, as well as examining copious documents from many of the major actors, to explore the ways in which uncertainty was used by actors and portrayed in media stories.

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New Communication Channels

Research exploring the nature of popular science narratives on the Internet—as well as work that seeks to understand how audiences use such information—is just getting under way. Much of the early research has focused on communication of health information, which is outside the scope of this bibliography. Most of the work cited here seeks to understand how attributes of new communication channels interact with user behavior to influence message impacts. For example, Eveland and Dunwoody 1998 and Eveland and Dunwoody 2002 use experimental methods to look at the interaction of story design and user motivations. Steinke 2004 searches science and engineering websites for content useful to young girls. Treise, et al. 2003 is an early effort to understand how users determine the credibility of websites, while Trumbo, et al. 2001 offers an early look at journalists’ use of the Internet for story-production purposes.

  • Eveland, William P., and Sharon Dunwoody. 1998. Users and navigation patterns of a science World Wide Web site for the public. Public Understanding of Science 7.4: 285–311.

    DOI: 10.1088/0963-6625/7/4/003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By examining regular users of a popular science web site, the researchers look for linkages between site design and the ways in which users move through the science information. This is one of the first studies of users of a science website to make its way into the peer-reviewed literature.

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  • Eveland, William P., and Sharon Dunwoody. 2002. An investigation of elaboration and selective scanning as mediators of learning from the web versus print. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 46.1: 34–53.

    DOI: 10.1207/s15506878jobem4601_3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An experiment manipulated the delivery system of a science story (web and print) to better understand how story characteristics might influence users’ tendency to integrate information with what they may already know.

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  • Steinke, Jocelyn. 2004. Science in cyberspace: Science and engineering World Wide Web sites for girls. Public Understanding of Science 13.1: 7–30.

    DOI: 10.1177/0963662504042691Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study analyzed twenty-seven science and engineering websites for girls and looked for patterns in biographies of women scientists and engineers found on the sites. The sites and biographies included an array of information that past work has suggested would be relevant to generating interest among girls.

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  • Treise, Debbie, Kim Walsh-Childers, Michael F. Weigold, and Meredith Friedman. 2003. Cultivating the science Internet audience: Impact of brand and domain on source credibility for science information. Science Communication 24.3: 309–332.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547002250298Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The perceived credibility of science sites on the Internet was influenced, in this experiment, by the nature of the top-level domain name (i.e., .com or .gov) and information evaluating the credibility of the source of the web site.

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  • Trumbo, Craig W., Kim J. Sprecker, Rebecca J. Dumlao, Gi Woong Yun, and Shearlean Duke. 2001. Use of e-mail and the web by science writers. Science Communication 22:347–378.

    DOI: 10.1177/1075547001022004001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Two surveys of US science writers explored changes in e-mail and web use in the early days of the Internet. The authors explored factors that made journalists more or less likely to use these resources in newsgathering.

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Practical Advice

As is the case with any field that has a professional component, science communication is awash in advice on how to communicate science in ways that enhance a variety of outcomes, from perceptions of the credibility of science itself to science literacy. The citations below bifurcate along the lines of advice to scientists (Brake and Weitkamp 2010, Dean 2009, Hayes and Grossman 2006, Olson 2009, Shortland and Gregory 1991, Welch-Ross and Fasig 2007) and advice to prospective science writers (Blum, et al. 2006, Stocking 2010).

LAST MODIFIED: 02/23/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756841-0031

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