Case Studies of Media Responses to Research: Abstract

This summer I intend to examine how scientific studies are treated in various news outlets and other forms of media. If people are casual observers of news about scientific research, it seems that most of what they will learn will be sensationalized or in the form of sound bites. Scientific inquiry does tend to be full of intricate details and highly specific language, so summarizing original studies and presenting them for consumption by wider audiences is important. But being overly simplistic in secondary sources can fail to convey the truth of, or at worst, completely misrepresent the researcher’s original findings. By becoming familiar with the original methods and findings of different research projects, I will then be able to compare the truth of the studies with what is being presented in mainstream sources. After comparing original sources to articles, blog posts, and other secondary sources, I will reach out to the researchers themselves and ask them about their experience with the media.

This careful examination and comparison will give me a better understanding of research methods and the ways in which these things are presented to people without great knowledge of the studies’ scientific premises. Not only will this enable me to be a more critical recipient of scientific news, but it will aid me in understanding the relationship between science and media. Having a scientifically literate populace is important; this is impossible if the intersection of science and media is not transparent.