How Laypeople Understand the Tentativeness of Medical Research News in the Media: An Experimental Study on the Perception of Information About Deep Brain Stimulation

Joachim Kimmerle, Danny Flemming, Insa Feinkohl, Ulrike Cress

Medical research findings are often tentative, and people should be able to perceive this. However, the psychological processes underlying this ability are largely unclear. In a laboratory experiment, we found that the following factors had an impact on perception of tentativeness of research findings reported in a newspaper article: (a) the framing of findings, (b) emphasis on the limited reliability of the findings in the article, (c) people’s provisional opinion on the topic, and (d) their medicine-related epistemological beliefs. We make recommendations to science journalists to help promote the public understanding of health research and provide suggestions for future studies.



The challenges of science journalism: The perspectives of scientists, science communication advisors and journalists from New Zealand

Douglas James Ashwell

The news media play an important role in informing the public about scientific and technological developments. Some argue that restructuring and downsizing result in journalists coming under increased pressure to produce copy, leading them to use more public relations material to meet their deadlines. This article explores science journalism in the highly commercialised media market of New Zealand. Using semi-structured interviews with scientists, science communication advisors and journalists, the study finds communication advisors and scientists believe most media outlets, excluding public service media, report science poorly. Furthermore, restructuring and staff cuts have placed the journalists interviewed under increasing pressure. While smaller newspapers appear to be printing press releases verbatim, metropolitan newspaper journalists still exercise control over their use of such material. The results suggest these journalists will continue to resist increasing their use of public relations material for some time to come.


Informing Dissemination Research: A Content Analysis of U.S. Newspaper Coverage of Medical Nanotechnology News

Yulia A. Strekalova

This study examined nanomedicine coverage by the elite and regional U.S. newspapers. The study sought to study prevalent topics; examine time, risk and benefit, thematic and episodic, and societal and personal impact frames; and identify dominating overarching themes. Technology application and economic consequence were dominant topics, but contrary to the studies of other emerging technologies, regulations and moral issues were the least discussed topics for nanomedicine. A variety of data analytic techniques, including cluster analysis, were performed to analyze data. The analysis has identified three themes, Technology Prospects, High-Risk High-Reward, and Investment Costs, that dominated nanomedicine coverage.


Deliberation of the Scientific Evidence for Breastfeeding: Online Comments as Social Representations

María E. Len-Ríos, Manu Bhandari, Yulia S. Medvedeva

This mixed-methods study examines online comments (The Atlantic online, N = 326;, N = 596) generated by two widely read articles challenging the scientific basis for U.S. government breastfeeding recommendations. The analysis focuses on commenter evaluations of the scientific evidence for breastfeeding. Results demonstrate that commenters socially represented breastfeeding science as a means for manufacturing convenience and also as a process that is prone to flaws in its production and application. Online commenters discussed their personal experiences (42%) with breastfeeding more than its evidence base (16%). Personal and social experiences were used as filters to judge the merits of scientific arguments.