PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Journalists’ attitudes to scientists

Jenni Metcalfe   Econnect Communication Pty Ltd, PO Box 734 South Brisbane QLD Australia 4101

This paper will use the results of surveys conducted in Australia with journalists to discuss the attitudes of science journalists and general journalists to scientists. This is further explored by interviews with journalists to determine the depth of their views. A recent survey of journalists in Australia (May 2005) where most of the survey respondents were science journalists indicated existing barriers between scientists and journalists. Most of the journalists (81%) indicated they contacted scientists consistently or sometimes receiving good quality information (90% said consistently or sometimes). A number of questions in the survey asked journalists about their view of scientists, and most journalists responded that scientists were (consistently or sometimes) passionate about their work (113), trustworthy (111), and helpful to the media (102). However, a significant number of journalists also said that scientists were (consistently or sometimes):
• unlikely to be able to explain their work clearly without using jargon (99)
• cared more about their peers than what the public thought (90)
• were removed from the concerns of ordinary people (77)
• did not understand how the media worked (71)
• were more concerned about funding than making a difference (67)
• were likely to hype or exaggerate their work (50)
This preliminary survey results will be further explored and compared with similar international research.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.