Author: Rony Armon

Science popularization is conventionally viewed as external to the world of practicing researchers and to the production and validation of scientific knowledge (Whitley, 1985). Yet sociologists of science demonstrated that scientists communicate research via a plethora of scientific and popular channels in order to gain public recognition and support (Whitley, 1985, Lewenstein, 1995, Allan, et al., 2010). But while the narrative strategies of media actors and professional popularizers have been widely explored (Scott, 2007, Mellor 2012, Journet, 2010, Kirby, 2011, Gouyon, 2015) scientific rhetoric is examined primarily as drawing a boundary between science and popular culture (Gieryn, 1999, Hilgartner, 1990, Myers 2003). More needs to be done in examining how ‘ordinary’ scientists engaging the public link their research with prevalent social and cultural contexts. Rather than focusing on selected cases this paper explores a broad corpus of televised interviews broadcasted live in the Israeli media for the story-worlds that experts rely upon in constructing their narratives. The findings indicate that interviewees use and intercalate the story worlds of the laboratory (Latour, 1987), the clinic (Atkinson, 1995), the natural environment (Myers, 1990), and draw upon science fiction as well as current affairs (Haran et al., 2008). But rather than blurring the boundaries between science and popular understanding (Myers 2003) their narratives align with professional norms of the communication of scientific results. A detailed analysis of their narratives (Georgakopoulou, 2007) reveals their structuring as highlighting the generality of the events narrated rather than their idiosyncratic and particular characteristics. Scientists communicating with the mass media are advised to package their research as a compelling story, avoid technical descriptions and the contingencies they encountered (Gregory and Miller, 1998, Baram-Tsabari and Lewenstein, 2013). These recommendations will be discussed in light of the media practices that this paper will report.

Author: Rony Armon, King’s College London, United Kingdom

Though new media channels offer new venues for open and dialogical science communication (Trench, 2012, Liang, 2014), the news media remains is a major source of scientific information to the general public. As science coverage is largely attuned to traditional news values and news frames (Nisbet & Huge, 2006, Verhoeven, 2010), scientists are often trained to frame their research as engaging and clear accounts (Baram-Tsabari, & Lewenstein, 2013).

Rather than focusing on packaging science for popular consumption this workshop focuses on the interactional dynamics in which these accounts need to be embedded. While science communicating
training makes a broad use of role-play scenarios this workshop exploits naturally occurring media interactions as a way of capturing potential sources of trouble and their handling by scientific experts (Stokoe, 2014). A focused and detailed examination of such interactions enables the tracing of how participants analyse, interpret and reference each other’s stories (Georgakopoulou, 2007), contend over their respective agendas as the interaction progresses.

The workshop will be based on the presentation of news interviews engaging health risks in which scientists were found to disagree with interviewers’ assessments. Workshop participants will be asked to discuss in small groups what the interviewer’s questions were implying and how they would respond. After obtaining feedback from the group the responses that experts actually provided will be presented and evaluated for their handling of these particular interactions. The workshop is geared at preparing researchers to their interactions with journalists. However, this training could also be useful for communicating science in the conversational web media, where discussions are often steered by other agendas and claims (Laslo, Baram-Tsabari, & Lewenstein, 2011) or contestations of scientists’ credibility (Trench, 2012).