Monday, July 14, 2008

Primum Non Nocere - Part IV (Scientists and the Media)

ResearchBlogging.orgScientists Generally Happy With Their Media Interaction. (Title compliments of Science Daily).

The article cited is based on a report in Science, entitled Interactions with the mass media (see Reference).
Key findings of the survey included:

1. Increasing the public's perception of science was the most important benefit mentioned by scientists as an incentive to interact with the media, with 93% indicating that achieving 'a more positive public attitude towards research' was an important motivator;

2.However, lack of control of media outcomes remains an issue for many scientists, with nine in 10 respondents identifying the 'risk of incorrect quotation' as an important disincentive.
The survey was sent to over 1,300 (1,354 to be exact) researchers over a two year period (2005-2006). They had a response rate of 43%, so a little over 580 of them responded.

Perceived impact of media contacts on career by country. Distribution of answers to the question: "Consider the totality of your media contacts over your career. How great has their positive or negative impact been on you professionally?" Only respondents reporting media contact(s) in the past 3 years are included in the graph.
So, what does this all mean? I think it's clear that this begins to eliminate the stereotype that scientists simply hole up the lab and don't speak to anyone from the outside. I think it means that scientists are comfortable with working with the media, and see the interactions as generally pleasant. Scientists do care about how the public perceives them and their research, and they will go to great lengths to get the word out accurately. I think this reflects positively and runs true to my comments about the obligation of scientists to do nothing to harm the reputation of science as being a very beneficial tool (see my Primum Non Nocere series). Scientists are concerned with people taking their science seriously, and I think they know that in this day and age, they need to keep the public well informed if they're going to generate interest for their research. Interest does equate to dollars. The scientist that can put their research into easily understandable terms, and can point out the importance of their work, is IMNSHO, bound to have a better chance of generating the interest that will allow them to receive funding. It's all about communication folks.

Peters, H.P., Brossard, D., de Cheveigne, S., Dunwoody, S., Kallfass, M., Miller, S., Tsuchida, S. (2008). SCIENCE COMMUNICATION: Interactions with the Mass Media. Science, 321(5886), 204-205. DOI: 10.1126/science.1157780

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