scientific evidence

Public engagement with scientific evidence in health: A qualitative study among primary-care patients in an urban population

Marilyn M. Schapira, Diana Imbert, Eric Oh, Elena Byhoff, Judy A. Shea

The purpose of this study is to explore the experience and perspective of patients regarding scientific evidence in health and the degree that this information impacts health behavior and medical decision making. A focus group study was conducted. Participants were recruited from an urban primary-care practice. The focus group discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded by two independent investigators. Emergent themes were identified. Participants (n = 30) ranged in age from 30 to 79 years, 60% were female, 77% were black, and 50% had at least some college experience. Three thematic areas informed a wide range in level of interest regarding scientific study design and result information: (1) scientific literacy, (2) medical decision making style, and (3) impact of culture and community on decision making. Our findings indicate that communication strategies that incorporate key elements of scientific study design, methods, and results will most effectively translate findings from comparative effectiveness research to patient-informed decision making regarding evidence-based health interventions.

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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; NYTimes.com, 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.

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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.

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Contested evidence: Exposure to competing scientific claims and public support for banning bisphenol A

Paul R. Brewer, Barbara L. Ley

The public controversy surrounding bisphenol A (BPA) revolves around competing claims about what scientific evidence shows regarding the effects of the chemical on human health. This study uses an experiment embedded within a public opinion survey to test the effects of exposure to such claims on public support for banning the use of BPA in products. Exposure to the claim that “there is not enough scientific evidence that BPA harms human health” reduced support, whereas exposure to the claim that there “is enough scientific evidence” failed to increase support. No effect emerged among those simultaneously exposed to both claims. The “not enough evidence” claim influenced less educated respondents and women but not college-educated respondents or men. Aspects of the underlying structure of opinion also differed depending on which claim(s) respondents received. The results illuminate how members of the public respond to competing scientific claims regarding controversial issues.

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