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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton September 2, 2016

Communicating scientific evidence: scientists’, journalists’ and audiences’ expectations and evaluations regarding the representation of scientific uncertainty

Michaela Maier, Jutta Milde, Senja Post, Lars Günther, Georg Ruhrmann and Berend Barkela
From the journal Communications


Although uncertainty is inherent in scientific research, it is an often neglected topic in public communication. In this article, we analyze how scientists and journalists think they should communicate about the uncertainty of scientific evidence in public, and whether their real-world communication meets laypersons’ demands and expectations. For scientists and journalists, our analyses are based theoretically on an expectancy-value model and empirically on two representative surveys. Laypersons’ expectations and evaluations are analyzed using qualitative in-depth interviews. Results show that scientists and journalists widely agree that scientific uncertainty should be pointed out in their communication. Nonetheless, while scientists show a clear inclination toward the media and hope that uncertainties will not be dramatized or misused, journalists on the other hand have a strong audience orientation and hope to stimulate critical reflection on scientific findings. For audiences, however, media coverage about scientific uncertainty is of less interest. They clearly expect fact-oriented information on the use of technology in everyday life.

Published Online: 2016-9-2
Published in Print: 2016-9-1

©2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin Boston

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