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Guest Thinkers

Reader Poll: The Next Big Framing Controversies?

Over at the Intersection, Chris generated a discussion of what issues might be the next big science policy debates. I’d like to turn the question in a slightly different direction and solicit reader opinion:

In the coming decades, what are the next great framing controversies?

In my research and at this blog, I have tracked how strategists selectively define stem cell research, intelligent design, and climate change to suit their policy goals, and how media coverage combines with citizen values to shape public concern and policy preferences.

As I have also argued, given certain conditions, food biotechnology and nanotechnology are potentially the next big issues to go political in the U.S., erupting into major frame contests.

Within these new communication contexts, scientists have a duty to engage in effective public engagement efforts. If they don’t, they cede the communication ground to others, in many cases the opponents of science.

But in coming years, what are the other public engagement flashpoints to anticipate? On what issues can we apply a scientific understanding of the public and the media system to avoid communication failures?

These potential communication breakdowns might be specific to a particular issue but might also be more meta-topics. Here are a just a few possibilities. Let me know your own thoughts:

With increased investment in biomedical research, will animal experimentation become a major debate?

With genomics research, will the patenting of novel or synthetic lifeforms be an issue?

Perhaps the ethical and economic implications of life extension research?

Genetic enhancement for athletic performance and other human traits?

In the face of climate change, a renewed debate over nuclear energy?

The impact of the New Atheism movement on the public’s trust and image of science?

What about sources of authority when it comes to bioethics? Who is a bioethicist and what does expertise and expert consensus mean in the field of bioethics? How will bioethics be communicated to the public? How should it be covered by journalists?

Is there a realistic future for science journalism, the traditional vehicle for science communication?


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