The relationship between science and the mass media has attracted the attention of sociologists of science and communication scholars alike. Given the importance of the mass media in framing public opinion in every part of society, media attention can be seen as crucial for science’s public support. In times of a presumptive tightening of the sciences’ media connection, the question arises if not only the media coverage of science is on the rise but also if science in turn orients itself towards the rationalities of the mass media. This process of mutual influences and dependencies between science and the mass media has been termed “medialization”1. We assume, however, that it is not the sphere of science as such that experiences media-related change but that resonance can be observed in certain disciplines only under specific structural conditions.

By comparing mathematics, molecular biology and contemporary history, we investigate the implications of medialization in three disciplines that differ in the amount of news coverage as well as in their production and presentation modes of knowledge. The central question is on which levels structural change towards mass media-related criteria of relevance can be located: as alteration of the professional role of scientists? As organizational responses? Or in scholarly communication, by anticipating mass media-related criteria in the presentation of scientific knowledge?2 In this paper we focus on the presentation modes of scientific findings. A quantitative and qualitative content analysis of historical, mathematical and molecular biological findings covered by the German press informs about the dissemination processes and structural characteristics of medialized papers. In combination with interview data from scientists, press officers of research institutes and journal editors this allows to explore the media impact on science for different disciplines.

The paper is based on the research project “The Production and Presentation of Scientific Knowledge under the Conditions of Medialization” funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the framework of the funding initiative “New Governance of Science – Research on the Relationship of Science, Policy and Society“.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Media attention and its repercussions on science
Results of a cross- disciplinary analysis

Martina Franzen   Institute for Science and Technology Studies (IWT) University of Bielefeld

Simone Rödder   Institute for Science and Technology Studies (IWT) University of Bielefeld

The relationship between science and the mass media has attracted the attention of sociologists of science and communication scholars alike. Given the importance of the mass media in framing public opinion in every part of society, media attention can be seen as crucial for science’s public support. In times of a presumptive tightening of the sciences’ media connection, the question arises if not only the media coverage of science is on the rise but also if science in turn orients itself towards the rationalities of the mass media. This process of mutual influences and dependencies between science and the mass media has been termed “medialization”1. We assume, however, that it is not the sphere of science as such that experiences media-related change but that resonance can be observed in certain disciplines only under specific structural conditions.

By comparing mathematics, molecular biology and contemporary history, we investigate the implications of medialization in three disciplines that differ in the amount of news coverage as well as in their production and presentation modes of knowledge. The central question is on which levels structural change towards mass media-related criteria of relevance can be located: as alteration of the professional role of scientists? As organizational responses? Or in scholarly communication, by anticipating mass media-related criteria in the presentation of scientific knowledge?2 In this paper we focus on the presentation modes of scientific findings. A quantitative and qualitative content analysis of historical, mathematical and molecular biological findings covered by the German press informs about the dissemination processes and structural characteristics of medialized papers. In combination with interview data from scientists, press officers of research institutes and journal editors this allows to explore the media impact on science for different disciplines.

The paper is based on the research project “The Production and Presentation of Scientific Knowledge under the Conditions of Medialization” funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the framework of the funding initiative “New Governance of Science – Research on the Relationship of Science, Policy and Society“.

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

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