Event Title

Scientific Controversy and its Relationship to the Media

Mentor 1

Scott Graham

Location

Union Wisconsin Room

Start Date

24-4-2015 2:30 PM

End Date

24-4-2015 3:45 PM

Description

Over the past several decades, there have been numerous instances of public controversies related to scientific, environmental, and health-related issues. Some examples of this phenomenon include global climate change, the effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on the environment, and what fibromyalgia is exactly. While the media has traditionally played an important role in helping to keep the public informed about emerging scientific issues or in times of medical necessity, there is also the danger that the media can fuel and, in fact, manufacture these controversies. Understanding the nature and progression of public controversies about scientific and health-related issues is an essential part of addressing these dangers. However, despite the wide availability of science communication literature documenting and exploring individual controversies, there is no broadly accepted definition of public controversies about science, nor is there any systematic understanding of how they emerge. Even so, science and technology policy scholars Collins and Evans have hypothesized that such controversies emerge when the media reports on matters of scientific debate before the scientific community has reached a consensus. / / In order to test this hypothesis, we identified five recent public controversies about science: the link between autism and vaccines, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), Fibromyalgia, H. Pylori, and contrails. Using these controversies as case studies, we conducted bibliometric analyses of the scientific and popular press literatures. Specifically, we have identified the frequency of articles by domain per year from 1980 to the present. Using these data as a guide, we have identified when spikes in scientific and media publication occur and the temporal relationship between those spikes. Preliminary findings stemming from this research on the correlation between scientific literature and news media suggest a much more complicated relationship between scientific and popular debate than Collins and Evans predict. For example, in the case of autism being caused by vaccines, there has been a drastic increase in media coverage on this topic since the release of the first major study linking these events in 1998. While this study was very clearly rejected by the scientific community, the number of popular media articles continues to skyrocket. Using these data as a guide, we develop a more elaborate taxonomy of different types of public controversies about science and health-related issues. Further analysis of this relationship will help to better inform the public and understand these controversies.

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Apr 24th, 2:30 PM Apr 24th, 3:45 PM

Scientific Controversy and its Relationship to the Media

Union Wisconsin Room

Over the past several decades, there have been numerous instances of public controversies related to scientific, environmental, and health-related issues. Some examples of this phenomenon include global climate change, the effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on the environment, and what fibromyalgia is exactly. While the media has traditionally played an important role in helping to keep the public informed about emerging scientific issues or in times of medical necessity, there is also the danger that the media can fuel and, in fact, manufacture these controversies. Understanding the nature and progression of public controversies about scientific and health-related issues is an essential part of addressing these dangers. However, despite the wide availability of science communication literature documenting and exploring individual controversies, there is no broadly accepted definition of public controversies about science, nor is there any systematic understanding of how they emerge. Even so, science and technology policy scholars Collins and Evans have hypothesized that such controversies emerge when the media reports on matters of scientific debate before the scientific community has reached a consensus. / / In order to test this hypothesis, we identified five recent public controversies about science: the link between autism and vaccines, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), Fibromyalgia, H. Pylori, and contrails. Using these controversies as case studies, we conducted bibliometric analyses of the scientific and popular press literatures. Specifically, we have identified the frequency of articles by domain per year from 1980 to the present. Using these data as a guide, we have identified when spikes in scientific and media publication occur and the temporal relationship between those spikes. Preliminary findings stemming from this research on the correlation between scientific literature and news media suggest a much more complicated relationship between scientific and popular debate than Collins and Evans predict. For example, in the case of autism being caused by vaccines, there has been a drastic increase in media coverage on this topic since the release of the first major study linking these events in 1998. While this study was very clearly rejected by the scientific community, the number of popular media articles continues to skyrocket. Using these data as a guide, we develop a more elaborate taxonomy of different types of public controversies about science and health-related issues. Further analysis of this relationship will help to better inform the public and understand these controversies.