Can hype be a force for good? – Debating the benefits and drawbacks of science hype

Can hype be a force for good? – Debating the benefits and drawbacks of science hype

Author: Tara Roberson – University of Queensland, Australia

Heather Bray – University of Adelaide
David Kirby – University of Manchester
Megan Munsie – University of Melbourne; Stem Cells Australia
Sujatha Raman – University of Nottingham

Science popularisation can be characterised as a process by which we marshal resources and shape social and political discourse in support of scientific research. The drive to become popular can lead researchers and institutions to draw upon an often-criticised tactic: hype. Hype, or simplified and sensationalised science, appears to be inescapable in science communication with examples extending from viral social media accounts and ‘breakthrough’-themed press releases, to the mediated claims of the celebrity scientist.

The potentially negative effects of hype are familiar in science communication literature. The question is whether hype always a distortion and a lie, or can it be redeemed? In this roundtable, our participants will look at whether there is some good to be had from hype. In the face of this less judgemental, more pragmatic review of science hype, they will draw on their individual expertise and experience to explore how we define hype, how it works, and the implications of its use.

As part of the roundtable A/Prof Sujatha Raman (Nottingham University) will explore how hype has helped make visible the challenge of antimicrobial resistance and the responsibilities entailed by this hype; A/Prof Megan Munsie (University of Melbourne; Stem Cells Australia) will discuss how hype influences our expectations of emerging technologies in fuelling the hopes of those seeking a solution and enabling an industry based on enthusiasm; Dr Heather Bray (University of Adelaide) will discuss how hype influences public discussions about innovations in agriculture; and Dr David Kirby (University of Manchester) will explore how hype helps establish new research and emerging technology through virtual prototyping.

Roundtable curator PhD candidate Tara Roberson (Australian National University) will draw on her thesis research on science hype to guide the roundtable discussion and debate whether the benefits derived from hype can offset the drawbacks.

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

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication