Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is one of the major and most critical societal issues the world faces today. To slow down the negative progress, the resistance problem needs to be handled widely by many actors including the general public. Sweden stands out as a positive example with favorable public attitudes in an international comparison. In spite of this, there is a widespread confusion around facts, which makes the positive attitudes very fragile as they have a weak knowledge base to stand on. With the media being one of the most important public informants of scientific and social issues, how these attitude- and knowledge patterns are paralleled by contents of the news might clarify the reasons behind their appearance. Earlier studies of antibiotic resistance in the press focuses primarily on specific facts and advised measures, leaving the scientific reasons for these unexamined. To what extent media provide answers to questions like: which are the mechanisms behind various causes for spread?, or why hasn’t a certain action would-be effective been studied previously?
 
The intended poster will present a thorough examination of seven major newspapers in Sweden since the last three years, as to the nature of the communication on antibiotic resistance. Which aspects are presented to the public and which factual keys are made available to understand the relevance of these? As bacteria develop resistance through the mechanisms of natural selection, these are used as part of the framework to assess the contents in the analyzed material. The research follows a mixed-method design with quantitative strategies giving a clear and valid view of the patterns of the content while a complementing qualitative analysis provide more insight into the nature of the communication as well as visual representations in the material.
 
Preliminary results show that a minority of the articles provides possible measures on an individual level, but directs the problem toward politicians, scientists and health professionals. Moreover, mechanisms for development and spread, from which riskreduction measures are derived, are deeply underrepresented in the public debate. The outcome will hopefully provide clues to vital scientific concepts implicitly required for public understanding and ability to make informed decisions on this emerging topic.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Evaluating Swedish newspapers’ communication on scientific background to antibiotic resistance

Gustav Bohlin   Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology

Gunnar E. Höst   Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is one of the major and most critical societal issues the world faces today. To slow down the negative progress, the resistance problem needs to be handled widely by many actors including the general public. Sweden stands out as a positive example with favorable public attitudes in an international comparison. In spite of this, there is a widespread confusion around facts, which makes the positive attitudes very fragile as they have a weak knowledge base to stand on. With the media being one of the most important public informants of scientific and social issues, how these attitude- and knowledge patterns are paralleled by contents of the news might clarify the reasons behind their appearance. Earlier studies of antibiotic resistance in the press focuses primarily on specific facts and advised measures, leaving the scientific reasons for these unexamined. To what extent media provide answers to questions like: which are the mechanisms behind various causes for spread?, or why hasn’t a certain action would-be effective been studied previously?
 
The intended poster will present a thorough examination of seven major newspapers in Sweden since the last three years, as to the nature of the communication on antibiotic resistance. Which aspects are presented to the public and which factual keys are made available to understand the relevance of these? As bacteria develop resistance through the mechanisms of natural selection, these are used as part of the framework to assess the contents in the analyzed material. The research follows a mixed-method design with quantitative strategies giving a clear and valid view of the patterns of the content while a complementing qualitative analysis provide more insight into the nature of the communication as well as visual representations in the material.
 
Preliminary results show that a minority of the articles provides possible measures on an individual level, but directs the problem toward politicians, scientists and health professionals. Moreover, mechanisms for development and spread, from which riskreduction measures are derived, are deeply underrepresented in the public debate. The outcome will hopefully provide clues to vital scientific concepts implicitly required for public understanding and ability to make informed decisions on this emerging topic.

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

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