2008 NSF Science Indicators Focuses on Framing & Sci Comm

The National Science Foundation has released a PDF version of the 2008 edition of Science Indicators. Every two years, Chapter 7 of the report reviews the latest research tracking public opinion about science and technology.

Over the coming weeks, I will be posting regularly about key implications of the chapter. In the meantime though, I strongly recommend downloading and printing out the chapter which offers a wonderfully detailed look at the cultural authority of science in America.

I also want to point readers to page 10 of the PDF that features a side bar on media effects and science. The side bar reviews research I have conducted, along with that of my colleague Dietram Scheufele, in the areas of agenda-setting and framing. The side bar then closes with a focus on the argument that I put forward at Science with Chris Mooney and that Scheufele and I elaborated upon in the October cover article at The Scientist.

Here's how the side bar concludes:

Recent research in communications has stressed the role of the mass media in shaping the agenda for public debate and political action (agenda-setting) and the terms in which the public sees the issue (framing) (Scheufele and Tewksbury 2007). Agenda-setting works largely through making a topic more salient and accessible to memory by frequent or more prominent mention of it, thereby increasing the public's sense that the topic is important. Framing refers to ways that mass media construct stories to make a topic comprehensible and relevant to the public. Frames stress some aspects of a topic and minimize others. Some kind of framing is necessary to reduce complexity and provide a focus to make sense of what would otherwise be undigested facts. Interested parties vie to get the mass media to present topics in their preferred frames.

Research on how S&T are discussed in the mass media has identified competing frames that have been used to present contested issues (Gamson and Modigliani 1989; Nisbet and Lewenstein 2002). Recognizing that most members of the public pay limited attention to S&T information, some researchers have argued that representatives of the scientific community need to do more to influence how mass media frame issues (Nisbet and Mooney 2007; Scheufele 2006). In their view, when it comes to influencing public opinion, influencing the frames through which the public processes and understands science-related issues may be more important than increasing the scientific technical content of news coverage.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Cornell engineers create artificial material with 3 key traits of life

An innovation may lead to lifelike self-reproducing and evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

Keep reading Show less
  • A huge segment of America's population — the Baby Boom generation — is aging and will live longer than any American generation in history.
  • The story we read about in the news? Their drain on social services like Social Security and Medicare.
  • But increased longevity is a cause for celebration, says Ashton Applewhite, not doom and gloom.