Author: Charlotte Autzen – University of Southern Denmark

For research that argues that communication is essential to the constitution of organizations (Taylor and Van Every 2000), understanding how universities practice science communication becomes essential. Polino and Castelfranchi (2012) talks about ‘the communicative turn’ in science where communication cannot be separated from the scientific enterprise itself, but is a structural and structuring feature of science. As a genre of its own, academic press release texts (Anhäuser og Wormer 2016) can provide insights into how organizations express themselves and their courses (Lynch et al. 2014; Gilpin 2008). In May 2016, the online service for academic press releases EurekAlert! celebrated 20th anniversary and the number of science stories told by research institutions from around the world surpassed 300.000. This, I propose, makes EurekAlert! the most comprehensive and collectively produced self-portrait of science that currently exists online. However, despite the uniqueness of this science story mosaic, little is known about the authors and the stories these write. The same goes for effects and consequences of this specific international communication practice that EurekAlert! supports. By exploring who, what and how science and organizational selves are communicated at EurekAlert! from 1997-2016, this paper offers a descriptive, longitudinal study of international press releases. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study shows that the self-portrait of science is skewed with an overload of health and medicine stories based on research findings published in PNAS, Science and Nature and written by native-English speaking universities. It further shows though that other story subject as well as stories from Asian and European universities have increased rapidly since 2014. Such changes may lead to a more representative store of meanings available for the public construct of science. The paper rounds of by discussing the international dimension of EurekAlert! and challenges that the use of English in science communication across boarders may bring.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices

Author: Charlotte Autzen

In their daily hunt for a good news story journalists subscribing to the international online media platform for research news EurekAlert! have a lot of readymade science news to choose from. On an average day more than 100 different press releases on newly published research is posted by universities, scientific associations, societies, journals and PR companies. Sometimes the journalists can even choose between several versions of the same research story. One could therefore have the hypothesis, that institutions have more reasons for sending out press releases than just making sure the press is well informed about the newest research achievements. By applying a discourse text analyze to these press releases one extra reason turns out to be ‘communicating the institutions’ who took part in the research. This paper investigates a handful of cases where up to five different press releases are published about the same research result, all posted on EurekAlert! in 2014. By comparing the different press release texts on the exact same research result this paper shows how the way ‘the science’ and ‘the institution’ are sold to the news media is showing both similarities and differences dependent of who submitted the press release. The differences are seen in positioning, voices and who gets to run with the credit for the results presented, while the overall manuscript for communicating science in the news media turns out to be very similar and more independent of the sender of the press release. Effects of and reasons for this observed practice of multiple press release postings is discussed by including a media search from the online media database Meltwater to show how many online news stories were generated in the news media, who was cited and how, all related to the chosen cases.