Everything that happens in the world can be observed and described from very different angles and every social system has a certain view on it. Legality is the concern of the law system, whereas understandability is a demand from an educational perspective and things that are somehow relevant for political power have a meaning to the political system.

Collecting these various perspectives and contextualizing events in their relevance for several social systems is in general the function of journalism. Science journalism does the same. Hence, our research interest was the question whether there are certain types of journalistic contextualization of science and if social sciences differ to other research fields in a significant way.

We examined 16 disciplines for their coverage and reconstruction in German print news during the years 2008 and 2009. Our approach enabled us to observe and describe reporting characteristics by comparative benchmarks and without normative expectations of “adequate coverage”.

A content analysis with a representative sample of 100 articles per discipline measured the relevance criteria journalists used. For example informatics was often observed from an economic perspective and biology by its scientific adequacy.

By applying a cluster analysis we found six types of contextualization. We found that due to its medical use psychology, the most frequent mentioned research field, is reconstructed similarly to biology, neurosciences and veterinary medicine (type 1). History (type 2) seems to have a unique status in German journalism as it is highly relevant in scientific and moral terms. A cluster out of philosophy, economics, law and communications (type 3) forms the only type which is hardly described nor questioned from a scientific perspective. Both type 2 and type 3 show essential structural differences to the other research fields. Instead of the science sections of newspapers they do appear more frequently in the society or culture sections. No pioneer research was described. Surprisingly the field of archaeology and classical studies partners with geology (type 4) as a result of their shared emotional potential. Informatics and architecture (type 5) peak out in their contextualization from a technical and economic point of view and the question of public attention. Chemistry, mathematics and materials science (type 6) are discussed in their technical potentials and scientific standing. Further type details will be presented and discussed.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science is in the eye of the beholder
Journalistic contextualization of social sciences compared to other research fields

Alice Ruddigkeit   University of Mannheim

Matthias Kohring   University of Mannheim

Frank Marcinkowski   University of Münster

Everything that happens in the world can be observed and described from very different angles and every social system has a certain view on it. Legality is the concern of the law system, whereas understandability is a demand from an educational perspective and things that are somehow relevant for political power have a meaning to the political system.

Collecting these various perspectives and contextualizing events in their relevance for several social systems is in general the function of journalism. Science journalism does the same. Hence, our research interest was the question whether there are certain types of journalistic contextualization of science and if social sciences differ to other research fields in a significant way.

We examined 16 disciplines for their coverage and reconstruction in German print news during the years 2008 and 2009. Our approach enabled us to observe and describe reporting characteristics by comparative benchmarks and without normative expectations of “adequate coverage”.

A content analysis with a representative sample of 100 articles per discipline measured the relevance criteria journalists used. For example informatics was often observed from an economic perspective and biology by its scientific adequacy.

By applying a cluster analysis we found six types of contextualization. We found that due to its medical use psychology, the most frequent mentioned research field, is reconstructed similarly to biology, neurosciences and veterinary medicine (type 1). History (type 2) seems to have a unique status in German journalism as it is highly relevant in scientific and moral terms. A cluster out of philosophy, economics, law and communications (type 3) forms the only type which is hardly described nor questioned from a scientific perspective. Both type 2 and type 3 show essential structural differences to the other research fields. Instead of the science sections of newspapers they do appear more frequently in the society or culture sections. No pioneer research was described. Surprisingly the field of archaeology and classical studies partners with geology (type 4) as a result of their shared emotional potential. Informatics and architecture (type 5) peak out in their contextualization from a technical and economic point of view and the question of public attention. Chemistry, mathematics and materials science (type 6) are discussed in their technical potentials and scientific standing. Further type details will be presented and discussed.

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

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