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Scientists and journalists - the Taiwanese case
Results of a survey of biologists and neuroscientists on their experience with and attitudes towards the mass media

Yin-Yueh Lo   Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

Hans Peter Peters   Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

In Western countries the relationship between science and the media has been extensively studied because media coverage of science is expected to increase the scientific literacy of the public and also public support for science. Compared with Western countries, there are relatively few of such studies in Asia. This study presented in this paper contributes to closing this research deficit. It reports results of an online survey of 129 Taiwanese biologists and 151 neuroscientists.

For the survey, 723 biologists and 821 neuroscientists were selected on the basis of their authorship of publications in international scientific journals. The response rates were 20% (biologists) and 22% (neuroscientists). The questionnaire comprises various aspects of the science-media relationship, including opinions towards the public and public communication, perception of the media, and the interviewees’ experiences with the media. The questions match those used in a German survey of researchers, thus enabling us to compare results across countries.

Congruent with surveys in other countries the Taiwanese researchers reported many contacts with journalists. 48% of the surveyed biologists and 71% of the neuroscientists said that they had such contacts in the past 3 years. Scientists who had contacts with journalists mostly evaluate these contacts positive, are satisfied with their outcome, and agree that public visibility benefits their careers and increases the chance to gain research funding. Furthermore, Taiwanese biologists and neuroscientists largely agree that public communication about science serves to decrease the knowledge deficit of the public and promotes public support for science and technology. General critical opinions towards media coverage of scientific research are prevalent among scientists, in particular regarding perceived accuracy.

While there are many similarities between experiences and attitudes of researchers in Taiwan and Germany, there are also some differences. One of the most interesting findings is that differences between German and Taiwanese biologists are generally larger than between neuroscientists from both countries. It suggests that public communication of research in a medical context (with potential personal implications for the lay audience) is rather similar in Taiwan and Germany, while media coverage of research without direct health implications shows different patterns in both countries.

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