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Adventures in Science Communication 
Brian Hughes
http://goo.gl/K94W0A
http://goo.gl/C1AzL3
http://goo.gl/C1AzL3
What Scientists Look Like
What Scientists Look Like
What Scientists Look Like
Non-specialists’ assumptions about science 
• Misconceptions 
– Research is a linear process 
of discovery 
– Research produces clear 
results 
– Research produces 
consistent results 
– All research is conducted the 
same way (i.e., the researcher or 
discipline doesn’t come into it) 
– Researchers know more than 
everyone else about a topic http://ed.fnal.gov/projects/scientists/in 
dex.html
Actual epistemology of science 
• Some philosophical assumptions 
– Determinism 
– Empiricism 
– Skepticism 
• Some methodological principles 
– Observation 
– Measurement 
– Experimentation 
• Some reasoning principles 
– Parsimony 
– Falsification 
– Objectivity
News Reporting and science 
• Reporting priorities 
– Concrete, simple > opposite 
– Time pressure, “Churnalism” 
• Media triggers 
– Relevance, currency 
• Frames and metaphors 
– Desire for narratives
When Reporting Priorities 
Get In The Way of Good Reporting
http://goo.gl/3t5EBv
http://goo.gl/Uht3Yy
http://goo.gl/79So50
http://goo.gl/8qEE5c
http://goo.gl/mX2vwy
“…more than a quarter of women feel embarrassed at having to pull out their reading 
glasses in restaurants and supermarkets as they feel it’s a clear sign they are older, knocking 
their confidence, and adding to their ‘invisibility’…” 
http://goo.gl/HGn8Ly
http://goo.gl/HGn8Ly
Scientists say the funniest things 
Aha ha
Scientists say the funniest things 
Burgeranus
Scientists say the funniest things 
“Fukalite” 
“Fucitol” 
“Fuchsite” 
“Fucol” 
Escherichia coli K-12 substr. MG1655 Gene: “fucU”
“Men Who Have Sex With Men” 
Winder (2006) 
Mills et al. (2004). American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(2), 278-285. 
Winder (2006). UNAIDS/06.25E 
Mills et al. (2004)
Churnalism 
From the media interview 
“We have already distanced 
ourselves from this claim as it is 
an incorrect interpretation of 
our data... we cannot say what 
is the cause and what is the 
effect” 
From the Abstract 
“a vegetarian diet is associated 
with poorer health…Therefore, 
public health programs are 
needed in order reduce the 
health risk due to nutritional 
factors” 
http://goo.gl/DkGk72
Churnalism 
http://goo.gl/Jc3wYf
When Reporting is Driven By 
Triggers rather than News
Media Triggers 
120 
100 
80 
60 
40 
20 
Shanahan & Good (2000). Public Understanding of Science, 9, 285-295. 
80 
70 
60 
50 
40 
30 
20 
10 
0 
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 
0 
NY Times 
Wash Post 
NY 
DC
http://goo.gl/sJuREK
http://goo.gl/sJuREK 
http://scac-irib.univ-rouen.fr/
http://goo.gl/tpy0sC
http://goo.gl/K4Rkr2
When Narrative Frames are more 
Important than Content
Media Frames 
Nanotech 
Social 
consequences 
GM food 
Safety 
Archaeology 
Empiricism 
vs. Custom
Headline inflation 
http://goo.gl/1DH3fl
Headline inflation 
http://goo.gl/1DH3fl
Socially conservative frame 
http://goo.gl/1DH3fl
Socially liberal frame 
http://goo.gl/BduXy 
http://goo.gl/Wgb2J
Middle class frame 
http://goo.gl/GyT0I 
http://goo.gl/BJ9XY
Technosceptic frame 
http://goo.gl/x11Ao http://goo.gl/Q8L7y
Technosceptic frame 
http://goo.gl/poES4J http://goo.gl/AikUFk 
http://goo.gl/SReC0 http://goo.gl/s5ZjvG
February 28, 1998
BMJ (2011), 8 Jan & 15 Jan
Anti-vaccination arguments: 19th century 
1878, National Anti-Argument Compulsory Vaccination Reporter 
“…diptheria, erysipelas, and not unfrequently 
abscesses...diarrhoae, bronchitis, convultions…” 
“saturating the small-pox [vaccine] with carbolic 
acid…a virulent poison [that] enters the blood” 
“Epidemics still continue to break out…” 
. 
“The duration of protection be limited…can the 
short-lived protection be expected to guard us?” 
“Friends, this medical despotism is a hard, 
materialistic, infidel thing…” 
“insults every human being…despotism, injustice 
and tyranny…” 
Vaccines cause illnesses 
Vaccines contain toxic 
additives 
Vaccines are ineffective 
Vaccine immunity is 
temporary 
Vaccines are promulgated 
solely for (others’) profit 
State promotion of 
vaccination is totalitarian 
“…a substitute…for faithful obedience to the 
sacred laws of health…” 
A healthy lifestyle is better 
than any vaccine 
Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432. 
http://goo.gl/sfnhdc
Anti-vaccination arguments: 21st century 
2002, Argument various websites cited by Wolfe & Sharp 
“The Orwellian spectable of monopolistic and 
oligopolistic pharmaceutical manufacturers…” 
State promotion of 
vaccination is totalitarian 
“manufacturers use the government to say ‘you 
must buy my product and inject it into your 
body’” 
Vaccines are promulgated 
solely for (others’) profit 
“...significant amounts of highly toxic substances 
such as mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde.” 
Vaccines contain toxic 
additives 
“personal hygiene & diet stop diseases, folks, not 
injecting virulent genetic material into yr veins” 
A healthy lifestyle is better 
than any vaccine 
“The vaccine requires multiple boosters 
throughout life…” 
Vaccine immunity is 
temporary 
“…studies have shown that vaccination has been 
unreliable as a means of preventing disease” 
Vaccines are ineffective 
“…autism, hyperactivity, ADHD, dyslexia, 
allergies, cancer, and other conditions…” 
Vaccines cause illnesses 
Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432. 
http://goo.gl/sfnhdc
What To Do?
Scientific 
literacy for 
journalists 
Media literacy 
for scientists 
http://www.smbc-comics.com/
Sci Comm Activism 
http://bloggingwithoutablog.com/
Scientific literacy 
at the 
population level: 
enhances 
society and 
empowers individuals 
http://ed.fnal.gov/projects/scientists/index.html
Thank you! 
Brian Hughes 
@b_m_hughes 
http://thesciencebit.net

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Adventures in sci comm (slideshare) 2.0

  • 1. Adventures in Science Communication Brian Hughes
  • 8. Non-specialists’ assumptions about science • Misconceptions – Research is a linear process of discovery – Research produces clear results – Research produces consistent results – All research is conducted the same way (i.e., the researcher or discipline doesn’t come into it) – Researchers know more than everyone else about a topic http://ed.fnal.gov/projects/scientists/in dex.html
  • 9. Actual epistemology of science • Some philosophical assumptions – Determinism – Empiricism – Skepticism • Some methodological principles – Observation – Measurement – Experimentation • Some reasoning principles – Parsimony – Falsification – Objectivity
  • 10. News Reporting and science • Reporting priorities – Concrete, simple > opposite – Time pressure, “Churnalism” • Media triggers – Relevance, currency • Frames and metaphors – Desire for narratives
  • 11. When Reporting Priorities Get In The Way of Good Reporting
  • 16.
  • 17.
  • 19.
  • 20. “…more than a quarter of women feel embarrassed at having to pull out their reading glasses in restaurants and supermarkets as they feel it’s a clear sign they are older, knocking their confidence, and adding to their ‘invisibility’…” http://goo.gl/HGn8Ly
  • 22. Scientists say the funniest things Aha ha
  • 23. Scientists say the funniest things Burgeranus
  • 24. Scientists say the funniest things “Fukalite” “Fucitol” “Fuchsite” “Fucol” Escherichia coli K-12 substr. MG1655 Gene: “fucU”
  • 25. “Men Who Have Sex With Men” Winder (2006) Mills et al. (2004). American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(2), 278-285. Winder (2006). UNAIDS/06.25E Mills et al. (2004)
  • 26. Churnalism From the media interview “We have already distanced ourselves from this claim as it is an incorrect interpretation of our data... we cannot say what is the cause and what is the effect” From the Abstract “a vegetarian diet is associated with poorer health…Therefore, public health programs are needed in order reduce the health risk due to nutritional factors” http://goo.gl/DkGk72
  • 28. When Reporting is Driven By Triggers rather than News
  • 29. Media Triggers 120 100 80 60 40 20 Shanahan & Good (2000). Public Understanding of Science, 9, 285-295. 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 0 NY Times Wash Post NY DC
  • 34. When Narrative Frames are more Important than Content
  • 35. Media Frames Nanotech Social consequences GM food Safety Archaeology Empiricism vs. Custom
  • 38. Socially conservative frame http://goo.gl/1DH3fl
  • 39. Socially liberal frame http://goo.gl/BduXy http://goo.gl/Wgb2J
  • 40. Middle class frame http://goo.gl/GyT0I http://goo.gl/BJ9XY
  • 42. Technosceptic frame http://goo.gl/poES4J http://goo.gl/AikUFk http://goo.gl/SReC0 http://goo.gl/s5ZjvG
  • 44.
  • 45.
  • 46.
  • 47. BMJ (2011), 8 Jan & 15 Jan
  • 48. Anti-vaccination arguments: 19th century 1878, National Anti-Argument Compulsory Vaccination Reporter “…diptheria, erysipelas, and not unfrequently abscesses...diarrhoae, bronchitis, convultions…” “saturating the small-pox [vaccine] with carbolic acid…a virulent poison [that] enters the blood” “Epidemics still continue to break out…” . “The duration of protection be limited…can the short-lived protection be expected to guard us?” “Friends, this medical despotism is a hard, materialistic, infidel thing…” “insults every human being…despotism, injustice and tyranny…” Vaccines cause illnesses Vaccines contain toxic additives Vaccines are ineffective Vaccine immunity is temporary Vaccines are promulgated solely for (others’) profit State promotion of vaccination is totalitarian “…a substitute…for faithful obedience to the sacred laws of health…” A healthy lifestyle is better than any vaccine Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432. http://goo.gl/sfnhdc
  • 49. Anti-vaccination arguments: 21st century 2002, Argument various websites cited by Wolfe & Sharp “The Orwellian spectable of monopolistic and oligopolistic pharmaceutical manufacturers…” State promotion of vaccination is totalitarian “manufacturers use the government to say ‘you must buy my product and inject it into your body’” Vaccines are promulgated solely for (others’) profit “...significant amounts of highly toxic substances such as mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde.” Vaccines contain toxic additives “personal hygiene & diet stop diseases, folks, not injecting virulent genetic material into yr veins” A healthy lifestyle is better than any vaccine “The vaccine requires multiple boosters throughout life…” Vaccine immunity is temporary “…studies have shown that vaccination has been unreliable as a means of preventing disease” Vaccines are ineffective “…autism, hyperactivity, ADHD, dyslexia, allergies, cancer, and other conditions…” Vaccines cause illnesses Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432. http://goo.gl/sfnhdc
  • 51. Scientific literacy for journalists Media literacy for scientists http://www.smbc-comics.com/
  • 52. Sci Comm Activism http://bloggingwithoutablog.com/
  • 53. Scientific literacy at the population level: enhances society and empowers individuals http://ed.fnal.gov/projects/scientists/index.html
  • 54. Thank you! Brian Hughes @b_m_hughes http://thesciencebit.net