Scientific advances are opened to democratic processes and how these processes are framed in the media play an important role in shaping science future policy and legislation. The dignity of the early embryo has become the central ethical issue in the public debate over the advisability of continuing human embryonic stem cell research in the last years. Embryonic stem cells are one more promising chapter of biomedical research about future treatment of Alzheimer, Diabetes or Parkinson and from an ethical point of view, these advances implies the intervention in the human nature in the very early stages. Therefore, the answer of the different actors implied and its transmission to the general public, mainly through mass media, will be determinant in future laws and public opinion. In Spain, there had been an important debate, especially from 2002 about researching on frozen embryos and from December 2006 a Law allows researching on embryonic stem cells and therapeutic cloning.

This study presents some proposals to promote societal dialogue between all the actors implied: scientists and researchers, industries, politicians, citizen associations, religious sources… from mass media perspective after going in depth in a content analysis of 2,482 articles collected from the web archives of two prestige daily papers situated in the two extremes of the ideological spectrum: El País (1,497) and ABC (984). The sample is retrieved with the keywords “células madre” and “célula troncal” from 1996 to 2006. The coding sheet has been used in The New York Times y Washington Post. The reliability has been equal or higher than 80 percent in all the variables using Cohen’s Kappa coefficient with 10% of the sample of the American study (841) in a double coding after a training period of the author in the University of Wisconsin- Madison. The variables are frames, main actors portrayed in the Spanish, European and American arena, format, source of stem cell and main topic.

The data shows that the issue is practically absent from the Spanish media in the first years when the most important are scientific advances and the coverage peaks from 2002 to 2004 when the issue turns into political arenas. This coincides with the maximum of the frame “political strategy”. Industrial aspects are absent above 90% with the frames “Market/Economic promise” and “Patenting/property rights”. The peaks of media coverage in El País and ABC about stem cells are identified when the main frames used by journalists are “political strategy”, “new research”and “ethics-morality”. Mass media have focused more on the political controversy about embryonic stem cells than on informing about scientific advances with adult stem cells. Therefore, the political debate has focused the media debate around embryonic stem cells in the 58% of the texts with less attention paid to other sources such as adult (17%), and bone marrow stem cells (7,2%).

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Proposals for societal dialogue framing the controversy
The case of stem cell research in Spanish press. El País and ABC(1996-2006)

Cristina Rodríguez Luque   CEU Cardinal Herrera University

Scientific advances are opened to democratic processes and how these processes are framed in the media play an important role in shaping science future policy and legislation. The dignity of the early embryo has become the central ethical issue in the public debate over the advisability of continuing human embryonic stem cell research in the last years. Embryonic stem cells are one more promising chapter of biomedical research about future treatment of Alzheimer, Diabetes or Parkinson and from an ethical point of view, these advances implies the intervention in the human nature in the very early stages. Therefore, the answer of the different actors implied and its transmission to the general public, mainly through mass media, will be determinant in future laws and public opinion. In Spain, there had been an important debate, especially from 2002 about researching on frozen embryos and from December 2006 a Law allows researching on embryonic stem cells and therapeutic cloning.

This study presents some proposals to promote societal dialogue between all the actors implied: scientists and researchers, industries, politicians, citizen associations, religious sources… from mass media perspective after going in depth in a content analysis of 2,482 articles collected from the web archives of two prestige daily papers situated in the two extremes of the ideological spectrum: El País (1,497) and ABC (984). The sample is retrieved with the keywords “células madre” and “célula troncal” from 1996 to 2006. The coding sheet has been used in The New York Times y Washington Post. The reliability has been equal or higher than 80 percent in all the variables using Cohen’s Kappa coefficient with 10% of the sample of the American study (841) in a double coding after a training period of the author in the University of Wisconsin- Madison. The variables are frames, main actors portrayed in the Spanish, European and American arena, format, source of stem cell and main topic.

The data shows that the issue is practically absent from the Spanish media in the first years when the most important are scientific advances and the coverage peaks from 2002 to 2004 when the issue turns into political arenas. This coincides with the maximum of the frame “political strategy”. Industrial aspects are absent above 90% with the frames “Market/Economic promise” and “Patenting/property rights”. The peaks of media coverage in El País and ABC about stem cells are identified when the main frames used by journalists are “political strategy”, “new research”and “ethics-morality”. Mass media have focused more on the political controversy about embryonic stem cells than on informing about scientific advances with adult stem cells. Therefore, the political debate has focused the media debate around embryonic stem cells in the 58% of the texts with less attention paid to other sources such as adult (17%), and bone marrow stem cells (7,2%).

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

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