PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Scientists, journalists, and social network media in China’s environment and health movement

Xiaole Ni  

In recent years, science-related issues have received unprecedented attention across China, partially in response to decades of industrial pollution and increased social concern. Environmental pollution is increasingly associated with adverse public health outcomes, adding scientific complexity to the understanding and tackling of environmental problems. Grassroots science communication organizations have emerged to help fill a deficit of scientific information. As such, conversations between scientific experts and environmental and health journalists have increased dramatically. Scientists are becoming more visible and reporters are redefining "professionalism" in environmental and health journalism. Science communication is new as a discipline in China, in terms of both practice and research. This contrasts with the West where intellectual understanding of science communication models has been established and evolved. Studies addressing communication of emerging technologies and controversial topics, the relation and interaction of various players, and political and social implications of science communication have been elaborated. In China, the top-down deficit model and study of government-dominated science popularization/ education systems have been dominant, lagging behind the progressing reality. Drawing on interviews, media analysis, and ethnographic data gathered during a recent, 16-month field study in China, this paper examines scientists and journalists' perception of each other and their dynamic and tactical interaction, and the indispensable and multifunctional role of social media in facilitating communication between these actors and the environmental organizations. The paper aims to advance understanding of the challenges and dynamics of science communication in China today.

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