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Media and the Public Understanding of Science


Award Holders: Professor Justin Lewis and Professor Ian Hargreaves

Researcher: Tammy Speers (Now Boyce)

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Based at:Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC)

This research project was commissioned by the ESRC to further our understanding of the public understanding of scientific issues and the role of the media in the communication of science. While the research is examining the coverage of scientific issues, there is a particular focus on three ongoing science news stories:

  • Climate change
  • Biotechnology and stem cell research
  • The MMR vaccine

The research, conducted during 2002, involves two main strands:

  • 6 months of media monitoring (including TV news, the press, radio and magazines);
  • Two national surveys designed to explore public understanding of science related issues (with a focus on climate change, biotechnology and stem cell research and the MMR vaccine).

The research then explores how the media inform (or misinform) public understanding of science related issues, with a view to providing a sophisticated model of the relationship between science, media and the public. See the report entitled 'Lost in Media Space: How Science Failed the Communications Test' by Ian Hargreaves, Professor of Journalism, Cardiff University.

Media coverage

‘Both Sides Now’, BMJ

‘Science not helped by the media’, Guardian

Past Projects

Who’s Misunderstanding Whom? Professor Hargreaves and Galit Ferguson

This ESRC commissioned report reviews existing research on UK media perception and reporting of science, and considers the current media perception through direct research with selected media. It is an inquiry into the relationship between science and the media, presents an agenda of current issues for examination by social science researchers, science policy experts, the media and scientists.

Related Links:

Towards a Better Map: Science, the Public and the Media [1 MB]