Sunday, July 23, 2006

BioScience Editorial: Framing Biology

Timothy M. Beardsley, Editor in Chief of BioScience magazine, recently wrote about message framing as a key component of successful public communication about emerging technologies. His editorial requires no additional commentary. Here are just a few sections (click here to see the complete article from BioScience magazine:
"Although some scientists might want to do no more than lament ignorant attitudes and return to their terminals, they risk being marginalized in an often unsympathetic political climate. Frames suggest an alternative strategy. Nisbet proposes that communicators who specialize in science and analyze ethics and policy options better than many of today's journalists could be more effective in educating the public about scientific issues. Unfortunately, many mainstream media outlets are now shedding science correspondents, not hiring new ones, so researchers may have to shoulder more of the burden of communication themselves. The Internet increasingly makes that possible. Yet although some scientists have long been exceptional communicators, the shift in roles will require mental readjustments.

The frames concept recognizes that facts are not enough to win popularity; emotional responses need to be excited as well. Scientists may find that notion alarming, because scholarly communications must be forthright about the uncertainties of scientific analysis and recognize its always provisional nature. That is a crucial part of science, but it does not yield enthusiasts. And since not everyone can be an expert, enthusiasts who believe science is important in big decisions are needed to spread science's influence."

Here are a few citations to my own work on the concept of framing and its applications to science communication:
Scheufele, D. A., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2005). The public and nanotechnology: How citizens make sense of emerging technologies. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 7(6), 659-667.

Scheufele, D. A. (2000). Agenda-setting, priming, and framing revisited: Another look at cognitive effects of political communication. Mass Communication & Society, 3(2), 297-316.

Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication, 49(1), 103 122.
For commentary on framing, politics, and science, see also Matthew C. Nisbet's Framing Science blog.