Public reaction to direct-to-consumer online genetic tests: Comparing attitudes, trust and intentions across commercial and conventional providers

Christine Critchley, Dianne Nicol, Margaret Otlowski, Don Chalmers

The success of personalised medicine depends upon the public’s embracing genetic tests. Tests that claim to predict an individual’s future health can now be accessed via online companies outside of conventional health regulations. This research assessed the extent to which the public embrace direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests relative to those obtained by a conventional medical practitioner (MP). It also examined the reasons for differences across providers using a randomised experimental telephone survey of 1000 Australians. Results suggest that people were significantly less likely to approve of, and order a DTC genetic test administered by a company compared to a MP because they were less trusting of companies’ being able to protect their privacy and provide them with access to genetic expertise and counselling. Markets for DTC genetic tests provided by companies would therefore significantly increase if trust in privacy protection and access to expertise are enhanced through regulation.


Frames of scientific evidence: How journalists represent the (un)certainty of molecular medicine in science television programs

Georg Ruhrmann, Lars Guenther, Sabrina Heike Kessler, Jutta Milde

For laypeople, media coverage of science on television is a gateway to scientific issues. Defining scientific evidence is central to the field of science, but there are still questions if news coverage of science represents scientific research findings as certain or uncertain. The framing approach is a suitable framework to classify different media representations; it is applied here to investigate the frames of scientific evidence in film clips (n = 207) taken from science television programs. Molecular medicine is the domain of interest for this analysis, due to its high proportion of uncertain and conflicting research findings and risks. The results indicate that television clips vary in their coverage of scientific evidence of molecular medicine. Four frames were found: Scientific Uncertainty and Controversy, Scientifically Certain Data, Everyday Medical Risks, and Conflicting Scientific Evidence. They differ in their way of framing scientific evidence and risks of molecular medicine.


A “tale of two countries”: Narratives of hearts, patients and doctors in the Spanish press

Alina Danet, Rosa M. Medina-Doménech

In this article we explore how the Spanish written press – ABC, La Vanguardia, and Blanco y Negro – and the official newsreel No-Do, created and disseminated a narrative about heart transplantations at the end of the 1960s. We consider how Franco’s regime used Christiaan Barnard’s heart transplants to legitimize the Spanish dictatorship and as a means of signifying scientific progress, modernization and national pride. The Spanish press created the plot of the first transplantations like that of a television series, presenting daily installments on the patients’ progress, dramatizing the stories and ensuring the public’s emotional attachment. The three main characters in the story: donors, patients and surgeons, formed a symbolic, indivisible narrative triangle endowed with singular meaning. This Spanish narrative of organ transplant technology was deployed through what we have called “a tale of two countries”, that, emulating the South African’s success, constructed in Martínez-Bordiú, Franco’s son-in-law, a home-grown, masculine scientific personality capable of performing heart surgery and endorsing Franco’s investment in scientific modernization.


Expert–novice differences in mental models of viruses, vaccines, and the causes of infectious disease

Benjamin D. Jee, David H. Uttal, Amy Spiegel, Judy Diamond

Humans are exposed to viruses everywhere they live, play, and work. Yet people’s beliefs about viruses may be confused or inaccurate, potentially impairing their understanding of scientific information. This study used semi-structured interviews to examine people’s beliefs about viruses, vaccines, and the causes of infectious disease. We compared people at different levels of science expertise: middle school students, teachers, and professional virologists. The virologists described more entities involved in microbiological processes, how these entities behaved, and why. Quantitative and qualitative analyses revealed distinctions in the cognitive organization of several concepts, including infection and vaccination. For example, some students and teachers described viral replication in terms of cell division, independent of a host. Interestingly, most students held a mental model for vaccination in which the vaccine directly attacks a virus that is present in the body. Our findings have immediate implications for how to communicate about infectious disease to young people.