What encourages scientists to communicate their work through the media? What incentives and rewards - for themselves, their programs, their organisations - does the media offer? And on the other hand, what discourages scientists from using the media? Are they adequately trained? Do they receive sufficient support from their organisations, in terms of logistics and recognition? How have they coped with the pressures of going public?
 
Little research has been carried out in Australia on exploring the attitudes of scientists towards using the media as a mechanism of communicating their research.
 
This paper gives a report of both qualitative and quantitative research on the views and attitudes of scientists to communicating through the media in Australia. The opinions of one hundred and eighty scientists were sought through focus groups and through direct questionnaires.
 
The conclusion was that there is wide variation in the use of the media by scientists. Some use it as a central part of the funding and technology adoption processes, where it complements other mechanisms for communication. Others are frightened of the media, and perceive it as a threat rather than an opportunity. They see little value in the media (which they and their colleagues know is going to distort science anyway), and feel hemmed in by the constraints of time and commercial confidentiality. They know there is little point in working with the media because it is at best tolerated in their organisation and certainly not taken into account in promotion cases.
 
A cultural change is required before scientists will make more use of the media, it has to become an accepted, rewarded, recognised and legitimate activity, encouraged at the highest levels and actively promulgated through their organisations. Media Skills courses can play their part in making scientists more comfortable with the media experience, but a larger part lies in making policy and administrative changes which can help to move the scientific culture towards more influential modes of communication.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Incentives and impediments to scientists communicating through the media

Jenni Metcalfe  

Toss Gascoigne  

What encourages scientists to communicate their work through the media? What incentives and rewards - for themselves, their programs, their organisations - does the media offer? And on the other hand, what discourages scientists from using the media? Are they adequately trained? Do they receive sufficient support from their organisations, in terms of logistics and recognition? How have they coped with the pressures of going public?
 
Little research has been carried out in Australia on exploring the attitudes of scientists towards using the media as a mechanism of communicating their research.
 
This paper gives a report of both qualitative and quantitative research on the views and attitudes of scientists to communicating through the media in Australia. The opinions of one hundred and eighty scientists were sought through focus groups and through direct questionnaires.
 
The conclusion was that there is wide variation in the use of the media by scientists. Some use it as a central part of the funding and technology adoption processes, where it complements other mechanisms for communication. Others are frightened of the media, and perceive it as a threat rather than an opportunity. They see little value in the media (which they and their colleagues know is going to distort science anyway), and feel hemmed in by the constraints of time and commercial confidentiality. They know there is little point in working with the media because it is at best tolerated in their organisation and certainly not taken into account in promotion cases.
 
A cultural change is required before scientists will make more use of the media, it has to become an accepted, rewarded, recognised and legitimate activity, encouraged at the highest levels and actively promulgated through their organisations. Media Skills courses can play their part in making scientists more comfortable with the media experience, but a larger part lies in making policy and administrative changes which can help to move the scientific culture towards more influential modes of communication.

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

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