Saturday, January 19, 2008

Framing Science

Changing Minds Through Science Conversation: A Panel on Framing Science
Jennifer Jacquet, Chris Mooney, Sheril Kirshenbaum

-“Scientists must learn to actively ‘frame’ information to make it relative to different audiences” – new editorial rules in Science (Nov.)
-journalists aren’t making an effort to engage intellectually with science in the lab, so why should scientists have to frame their own work for non-scientists?
-public is caught in the middle
-number of US adults believing in evolution has declined in last 20 years from 45% to 40%
-who’s to blame for science crisis: scientists or journalists?
-actually it’s Britney Spears
-Al Gore’s story got “scooped” by Spears losing her children to Kevin Federline
-evidence shows that celebrities are replacing science; more of the American public interested in entertainment and personalities than science news
-where do you go for the best news (non-celebrity) sources? BBC, NPR, NYT, Guardian Unlimited; common thread is that these sources are not corporately controlled
-“Internet: savior of science?” – BBC online,,
-TV is still number one way Americans get news, and still corporately controlled
-in Dec. FCC overturned a ban blocking companies from owning both newspaper and cable channels in same market

-need to change how we approach and write about intersection of science and society
-2008 election is great opportunity to shape where science is going in US
-Sciencedebate2008 is grassroots effort for sharing presidential candidates’ science policy stance; launched through blogger coalition
-science and scientists are approached as being separate from society at large; this needs to change

-why didn’t big science institutions use resources to make sciencedebate2008 happen earlier?
-“intersection endeavor”: people who care about science but aren’t scientists helping find ways to get society to care about science, to connect the public to the science community
-science needs to smash into the arts, humanities, media – need several "big 18-car pile-ups"
-third culture authors were scientists whose writings were popular in general public
-science bloggers are intersection types – working at intersection between science and boundless opportunities offered by new media

General discussion
-no campaign has officially expressed interest in sciencedebate2008; waiting until after Super Tuesday to contact
-simply not true that this hasn’t happened in previous 3 or 4 debates; Science and Nature have had editorials/articles evaluating candidates’ science policies
-must acknowledge that Science and Nature set tone of science journalism in US; if they cover it, general media will pick it up
-for science blogging to work effectively, have to have science institutions framing discussion
-need people to make connection between our world, our lives, and what science could be to excite people
-world of science has failed to appreciate why the importance of science to society has declined
-Sputnik put science on the front burner in a very particular way – is there something today that can do the same thing?
-public forgets if big networks get the science story wrong because it isn’t the next day’s news
-Britney is more interesting because she’s visual
-scientists are scared of giving take home message because there isn’t a pat answer; got to figure out how to make people interested
-having scientists bitch and moan and periodically point fingers doesn’t help their cause
-would love to see scientists have videos of lab bloopers; put tape of lab on YouTube (or SciVee)
-if sciencedebate2008 happens, who should ask questions: scientists or general public? More mileage might be gained by town hall-style debate
-how does the science issue echo out to affect me? Must frame the issue with a talking point that is personally related
-don’t focus too much on national, start locally because it can get the ball rolling and get picked up nationally
-most people get information locally so scientists need to learn to talk to local news outlets

Closing thoughts
-Jennifer: she is young but she hasn’t lost hope
-Sheril: any 6 year old loves science even if they don’t know its science; don’t lose but find new ways to explore, even outside traditional education
-Chris: must look at media problems with clear eyes but don’t not do anything because the grassroots movement will be picked up by media

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