The ‘Reporting Contested Science’ Project is an Open University funded initiative that aims to document the relationship between the production, content and reception of media coverage of contested science. This paper presents findings from one aspect of this project; content analysis of newspaper coverage of genetic research. More specifically, the research compared media coverage of scientific research on genetic explanations for sexuality and intelligence through analysis of a range of newspapers, including tabloid, mid-market and broadsheet examples. This sample reflects the current diversity in the UK newspaper marketplace.

The central questions that this presentation will address include: how was the scientific research on genetic explanations for sexuality and intelligence represented in this sample?; were there common themes in the coverage?; what were the key differences?; which interviewees and sources were cited in this media coverage and how were they represented?; and were there challenges made to the claims made?

The results illustrate how representations which contested genetic explanations for sexuality and intelligence introduced a range of challenges to the evidence presented (e.g. by introducing environmental explanations) or to the credibility of the research and the researchers involved. The paper will conclude by considering the influence of media coverage of contested science on public perceptions of science.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Reporting contested science
Comparing media coverage of genetic explanations for sexuality and intelligence

Richard Holliman   Centre for Science Education, Faculty of Science

Eileen Scanlon   Open University, Offices 6

Elizabeth Vidler   Open University, Offices 6

The ‘Reporting Contested Science’ Project is an Open University funded initiative that aims to document the relationship between the production, content and reception of media coverage of contested science. This paper presents findings from one aspect of this project; content analysis of newspaper coverage of genetic research. More specifically, the research compared media coverage of scientific research on genetic explanations for sexuality and intelligence through analysis of a range of newspapers, including tabloid, mid-market and broadsheet examples. This sample reflects the current diversity in the UK newspaper marketplace.

The central questions that this presentation will address include: how was the scientific research on genetic explanations for sexuality and intelligence represented in this sample?; were there common themes in the coverage?; what were the key differences?; which interviewees and sources were cited in this media coverage and how were they represented?; and were there challenges made to the claims made?

The results illustrate how representations which contested genetic explanations for sexuality and intelligence introduced a range of challenges to the evidence presented (e.g. by introducing environmental explanations) or to the credibility of the research and the researchers involved. The paper will conclude by considering the influence of media coverage of contested science on public perceptions of science.

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