Readers’ comments to online science news articles are a rich source of information on public views on popularized science issues. These comments serve as a platform for deliberative discussion, where citizens can participate and contribute to public debate on topics such as climate change or vaccination. Therefore, online comments can provide data on public attitudes and perceptions of science. Content analyses of these comments can offer insight into the deliberation process as it shows how people construct meaning from the original content as well as from the comments of other readers. In this research, 1409 readers’ comments to 333 science news articles on a Dutch newsmedia platform (Noorderlicht) were analyzed on the presence of analytic and social content of deliberation. Based on previous research, our analytic indicators were: (1) narrative, (2) factual information, (3) sources, (4) values, (5) explicitly taking position, and (6) reasons. Social indicators of deliberation were: (1) addressing other comments/commenters, (2) posing questions, and (3) addressing article content. Overall, the degree of deliberation in response to scientific news appeared to be similar to that to general news (as derived from literature), but a shift in focus of deliberation indicators was observed. Results show that readers’ comments tend to reflect readers’ positions toward an issue (52,9%; pro or con depends on the issue) and that almost half (44,6%) contain references to sources. Compared to general news, science news results in comments that contain less factual information and reasoning, but more questions and references. Finally, health issues received personal comments/ stories more often than other issues, whereas comments to technical science issues more often contained factual information. The authors argue that it may be that readers miss certain scientific literacy skills, because this would explain why comments on science news tend to contain factual information less often than those on other news, as well as why people ask more questions in their comments to this type of news.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science, news, and public deliberation
The use of analytic and social indicators in readers' comments to gain insitht into public attitudes and perceptions of popularized science issues

Mark Bos   The Hague University/Leiden University

Mirande Klerk   Leiden University

Ronella Grootens-Wiegers   Leiden University

Anne Land-Zandstra   Leiden University

Readers’ comments to online science news articles are a rich source of information on public views on popularized science issues. These comments serve as a platform for deliberative discussion, where citizens can participate and contribute to public debate on topics such as climate change or vaccination. Therefore, online comments can provide data on public attitudes and perceptions of science. Content analyses of these comments can offer insight into the deliberation process as it shows how people construct meaning from the original content as well as from the comments of other readers. In this research, 1409 readers’ comments to 333 science news articles on a Dutch newsmedia platform (Noorderlicht) were analyzed on the presence of analytic and social content of deliberation. Based on previous research, our analytic indicators were: (1) narrative, (2) factual information, (3) sources, (4) values, (5) explicitly taking position, and (6) reasons. Social indicators of deliberation were: (1) addressing other comments/commenters, (2) posing questions, and (3) addressing article content. Overall, the degree of deliberation in response to scientific news appeared to be similar to that to general news (as derived from literature), but a shift in focus of deliberation indicators was observed. Results show that readers’ comments tend to reflect readers’ positions toward an issue (52,9%; pro or con depends on the issue) and that almost half (44,6%) contain references to sources. Compared to general news, science news results in comments that contain less factual information and reasoning, but more questions and references. Finally, health issues received personal comments/ stories more often than other issues, whereas comments to technical science issues more often contained factual information. The authors argue that it may be that readers miss certain scientific literacy skills, because this would explain why comments on science news tend to contain factual information less often than those on other news, as well as why people ask more questions in their comments to this type of news.

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

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