Equity, public understanding of science, and the biotechnology debate

Document Type



Contrary to common assumptions within the scientific community, media effects are largely long-term and indirect, coverage does not always overrepresent fringe positions, and messages are interpreted actively by audience members. Lay publics associate more risk with science and technology in their social context than with the underlying science itself, and general attitudes toward science influence the degree of risk associated with particular new developments. Biotechnology, new and highly complex, is used as a case to further explore media effects issues for science. The range of issues that surfaces when nonscientists are asked to evaluate risks is not easily influenced by the narrow, source-dominated coverage characteristic of this topic. The interests of the scientific community would be better served by news addressing the full range of ethical, social, economic, and policy issues with which the public is concerned.


Biotechnology; Mass media; Public opinion; Risk – Sociological aspects; Science news; Scientists


Communication | Communication Technology and New Media | Journalism Studies | Mass Communication | Science and Technology Studies

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