media

Science journalists’ perceptions and attitudes to pseudoscience in Spain

Sergi Cortiñas-Rovira, Felipe Alonso-Marcos, Carles Pont-Sorribes, Eudald Escribà-Sales

Using interviews and questionnaires, we explored the perceptions and attitudes of 49 Spanish science journalists regarding pseudoscience. Pseudoscience, understood as false knowledge that endeavours to pass as science, is a controversial and complex matter that potentially poses a risk to society. Given that concern over this issue has grown in recent years in Spain, our aim was to evaluate how pseudoscience operates in journalistic practice in Spanish media. Our data reveal not only a lack of editorial policies in regard to pseudoscience, but also the existence of a significant number of science journalists who make light of the potential threat implied by the pseudosciences in the media. Some journalists point to the lack of scientific training of editors and media managers as one of the reasons for the proliferation of the pseudosciences.

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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.

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‘The kind of mildly curious sort of science interested person like me’: Science bloggers’ practices relating to audience recruitment

Mathieu Ranger, Karen Bultitude

With at least 150 million professional and amateur blogs on the Internet, blogging offers a potentially powerful tool for engaging large and diverse audiences with science. This article investigates science blogging practices to uncover key trends, including bloggers’ self-perceptions of their role. Interviews with seven of the most popular science bloggers revealed them to be driven by intrinsic personal motivations. Wishing to pursue their love of writing and share their passion for science, they produce content suitable for niche audiences of science enthusiasts, although they do not assume background scientific knowledge. A content analysis of 1000 blog posts and comparison with the most popular blogs on the Internet further confirmed this result and additionally identified key factors that affect science blog popularity, including update frequency, topic diversity and the inclusion of non-text elements (especially images and video).

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Blinded with science: Trivial graphs and formulas increase ad persuasiveness and belief in product efficacy

Aner Tal and Brian Wansink

The appearance of being scientific can increase persuasiveness. Even trivial cues can create such an appearance of a scientific basis. In our studies, including simple elements, such as graphs (Studies 1–2) or a chemical formula (Study 3), increased belief in a medication’s efficacy. This appears to be due to the association of such elements with science, rather than increased comprehensibility, use of visuals, or recall. Belief in science moderates the persuasive effect of graphs, such that people who have a greater belief in science are more affected by the presence of graphs (Study 2). Overall, the studies contribute to past research by demonstrating that even trivial elements can increase public persuasion despite their not truly indicating scientific expertise or objective support.

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