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Life Sciences communication in the media
Average reader rating: 0  
by EGLS Life Sciences

BACKGROUND

Media coverage of science in the EU varies in both quality and quantity and from country to country. Developments in the life sciences have, in general, made the headlines only if associated with a ‘breakthrough’ or a controversy. When this happens, the press quickly moves away from purely informative coverage to foster instead a widespread debate on possible implications and risks of the technology under scrutiny, and this can be very confusing for the public. Typical results of such confusing information are the misinformation, suspicion and hostility that surround the introduction of innovative products based on recombinant DNA technology, particularly GM foods and crops; although for the development of new medical drugs and treatments, public views are more favourable – as documented by the Eurobarometer surveys.

This communication problem is now well recognised. At both national and EU levels there has been a significant increase in activities broadly described as ‘Public Understanding of Science’. Initiatives have taken place throughout Europe and the EU is also actively playing its role in this respect. In the UK for instance, these activities include a very substantial increase in the amount of science on television and radio, a much higher profile by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, including the very successful “Science and Technology week” and the media training of many scientists, both junior and senior. However many of the activities launched are based on the ‘deficit model’, that is, the assumption that the public is ignorant and that when they are informed, they will agree with the scientists; and not only that, they will want governments and the EU to fund science better. This view still has advocates in the scientific community and is often the unspoken starting point for their discussions. There are other problems: science teaching in most school systems is not doing well, and it appears that scientists are still neither listening nor responding to the public’s real concerns. In contrast, science journalists see their role as being to question the scientists and their findings, not just to explain the science. What can be done to improve this situation? One suggestion that has been made is that the situation might be improved if the scientific community itself set up a central service facility that could draw together, simplify and express in lay language the vast amount of complex information that science generates. But there must be other useful things that could be done, and it was to explore such ideas that the workshop was set up.

[...]

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Launching detailed studies on science communication in Europe; [...]

2. Increasing awareness of respective needs and constraints; [...]

3. More proactive engagement of researchers in the public debate; [...]

4. Closer interfaces and networking of media and bioscience information relays; [...]

5. Recognising science journalism specificity; [...]

6. Fostering a more proactive role in the communication process by the research institutions; [...]





You can download the full report as a *.pdf: click here

 

 

Summit for the Future - Life Sciences


You can find more about Summit for the Future in the Books, Articles and Links section.

 










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