PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Who is telling the truth?
- An empirical study on the tension between scientists media in selected hot controversies in China

Zhian Zhang   The School of Communication and Design, Sun-Yet-Sun University, Guangzhou, China

Hepeng Jia   China Science Media Centre, Beijing, China

Zhengmao Zhan   China Institute for Science Communication

Despite policymakers’ stress and supports on science communications, it is widely complained by journalists that scientists in China are increasingly reluctant to cope with media. On the other hand, Chinese scientists frequently complain media often misunderstand or even mis-interpret their research findings or scientific viewpoints, particularly their comments on hot scientific issues, so that they would not talk to media.
However, these widespread perceptions have never been proved in the real contexts. There are few literature to discuss this situation both in China and internationally. Based on the above situations, we design an empirical research methodology, combining content analysis on media’s quotes of scientists, interviews of those involved in the production of the content involved, and a supplementing questionnaire among a wide variety of scientists of different disciplines to test whether professional scientists are actively involved in media reportings of hot controversial issues, and whether media in these reportings have well and properly quoted scientists in the hot issues in question.
Concretely speaking, this research will identify reportings of the commonly agreed hot scientific issues – which include Fukushima Nuclear Accident, the crisis of illegally adding Clenbuterol in meat in March, and the high-speech train crash in July – in China in four Chinese media – the People’s Daily, the S&T Daily, Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily and Beijing-based The Beijing News, determining the degree of information quoted from the Chinese scientific community regarding the issues in these reportings, and then it will use interviews to survey those engaged to test the degree of accuracy of the quoted information in the published reportings.
By objectively screening the hot (often controversial) topics, properly choosing the media of different types, carefully analyse the articles related to the topics, and interviewing scientists/journalists involved (mainly quoted), our research is expected to reveal an objective engagement status of Chinese scientists in hot (often controversial) scientific issues and factors leading to such status.
Based on the above researches, we will also find out some possible solutions which are mutually accepted by scientists and media to better engage science community in the communications of hot issues in the Chinese contexts.

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