Characteristics of Major Players in the Science Communication Paradigm
Characteristic Science Media Public
Judgments No moral judgments creates protagonists and antagonists Needs to have someone to blame. Judgments about risks are social. Personal, moral, and political judgments.
Values thinks its value-free combination of value-free and value laden value laden
Objectivity objective data strives for objectivity subjective beliefs
Negativity Avoids it Jumps on it. Makes good copy. Likes it. Likes to see specialists brought back down to earth.
Holistic View No More than science, yet normally considers just two sides of a story. Yes
Political Content unbiased and democratic political highly politicized view of nature
Cultural Context Not recognized and/or acknowledged Extremely important Integral
Impact on Risk Perception Very limited Not clearly understood High
Alternative Risk Views Not appreciated Thrives on them, creates contests of opinion Wants to know alternatives, see complete picture, choose sides
Tradition values tradition values tradition values tradition
Drama avoids drama generates drama remembers drama
Thrives on … consensus controversy consensus & controversy
Social Impacts limited interest in social systems highlights impacts on social systems concerned and interested in impacts on social systems
Information Management reluctant to release information immediately desperate to get recent information out concerned and interested in “the now”, need-to-know
The Future Concerned with the future Concerned with the future Concerned with the future
Action slow, careful, conservative approach calls for action demands action
Spatial Perspective universal scientific perspective emphasis on national or international perspective prefers local perspective
Language quantitative language mixture of quantitative and qualitative qualitative language. Apprehensive and suspicious of scientific lingo.
Personalization Avoids it Needs it Needs it
Uncertainty Normal and acceptable Tries to switch to certainties Apprehensive and suspicious of scientific uncertainty, deny it, viewed as indecisiveness
Predictability Predictable, dwells on prediction Predictable, likes to predict future Unpredictable
Technical Information Reassuring A challenge. Must transfer most of it into lay terms. Not reassuring. More technical information increases concern.
Trust & Credibility demands credibility and emphasizes trust only within scientific community demands credibility and emphasizes trust, concerned about overall image demands credibility and emphasizes trust – crucial elements
Framing unaware of public framing aware of public framing, uses it understands via framing
Information Vacuum creates information vacuum fills information vacuum must rely on media in an information vacuum
Effects of Information Vacuum information vacuum comes back to haunt them unscathed by information vacuum fear, mistrust, resentment of science
Information Vacuum Threshold threshold at which information should be reported relies on leaks or whistle blowers should have “official version” before media runs with it
Judgments requires data for judgments can impact judgments by altering perceptions do not require scientific data to make judgments
Emotions emotions do not play a role risk amplification – plays on emotions social amplification – worries and fears spiral out of control
Risk Perception real risks, objective truths real and perceived risks perceived risks. complex – don’t conform to expert opinions on risk
Communication Techniques highly standardized, cut and dry techniques, objective observation. Monologue. reliance on persuasion, manipulation, sensationalism, and/or clever techniques, metaphors. Monologue. sensitive to manipulation and sensationalism, questions objectivity, question motivation. Prefer dialogue.
Communications Training Very little. Viewed as unnecessary – even detrimental to scientific inquiry Highly trained Highly variable, heavy reliance on trained communicators
Trust thinks they will be trusted thinks they will be trusted trust can’t be manufactured
Temporal Constraints spends a lot of time thoroughly studying topic, few time constraints can’t spend enough time on topic, severe time constraints need to know immediately, thirsty for facts, impatient
Mistakes Strongly discouraged. Peer review allows corrections.   Doesn’t learn from mistakes. Inevitable. No time for corrections. Learns from mistakes. Natural. Learns from mistakes
Responsibility Not responsible for risk communication or its outcomes suggests responsible parties demands responsibility
Short & Long Term issues short and long term monitoring issues get short term coverage issues are long term, irrespective of monitoring
Perceptions one type of perception, Cartesian (observer & object) limited, more than one type of perception possible, journalist and subject but may be scientific as well multidimensional perceptions
Information Assimilation believes that research will diffuse into the public mind does not believe that research will diffuse into the public mind without intervention highly variable diffusion rates, gets most risk and science information from the media, interested but not well informed. Need it fast – utilitarian.
Attracting Attention Avoids it Vital. Aware of “Magic Seven”. Only “seven” issues attract public attention at any one time.
Responsibility for Science Education Not their responsibility, but think elementary and high school science education is poor. Perform it, but not necessarily qualified. Think scientists and teachers are responsible.
Science Education Assumptions Assumes that everyone is willing to learn about science Assumes that people need help to learn about science Not everyone is interested in learning about science
Complaints complains about media coverage complains about lack of cooperation complains about lack of information
Narratives uses strict scientific standards, peer reviewed journals creates classic narratives and stories prefers classic narratives and stories
Media Handling of Hazardous Events media sensationalizes hazardous events doesn’t sensationalize hazardous events media sensationalizes hazardous events
Transparency avoids transparency seeks transparency demands transparency
Language scientific lingo lay lingo lay lingo
Democracy thinks it’s democratic upholds democracy (freedom of the press) values democracy highly
Political Sway Very little Potentially large Depends on circumstance. Increased with help of media.
What risks are important? risk choices dictated by reason/deduction, choices outside of scientific reason seen as irrational chooses to cover a risk based on a combination of factors (I.e., whistle blower, public consensus, relevance to other issues, editorial concerns) values freedom to choose risks.
Media Personalities & Celebrities that Take Up Causes Suspicious of them Creates them, promotes them Suspicious of them
View of the Media Blames media, need more qualification, overly dramatic, “hack” work, omissions. Must gain their trust first – then the public. Much more suspect of general media. Respects science media. Chemistry and engineering are poorly represented. believes they are doing the best job possible, feels they are pawns for grants. sensitive to manipulation and sensationalism, questions objectivity. Chemistry and engineering are poorly represented.
View of the Public blames public perceptions, easily alarmed, emotional. Think public has generally negative view of them. No rules governing relationship with public. Very concerned with the public mind. More likely to criticize scientists. Has subscribers and customers to satisfy     ( Public = revenue!). Highly variable. Underestimated by both parties. Caught in the crossfire. Uncertain and apprehensive.
View of Scientists objective professionals, overly confident, passion for what they do, unaware of how inaccessible they are. objective professionals, trusts them, places them on pedestal, may make them look too authoritative. Don’t think science sells. Sometimes view science as foreign news. Generally positive, wants scientific info, but highly variable: arrogant, unpassionate, mistrust them – or in awe of them. Responsible, concerned, but secretive. Invisible until they need them. Believe science is value laden and political.
View of Advocates and Whistle Blowers Looked down upon, criticized by peers. Bad for science. Protagonist, heroic, David and Goliath. Great story material. Like a “hero” story. Like a personal story with emotion. BUT trust is not guaranteed.
Professional Image objective professionals, isolated objective professionals, isolated Variable
Rate of Change predictable and controlled change, paradigm unchanged for centuries Predictable, follows consensus and “fashion”, changes with the times unpredictable, postmodern doubt of science, increase in spirituality
Constraints Strict methodology. Peer review needed, consensus needed. No space constraints. Few time constraints. Editorial, space, and time constraints. Highly variable, but democracy = no “real” constraints

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