Consolidated vs. Fragile Science Communication Culture: A Comparison of Science Coverage of the BBC and Israeli Media

Author: Yael Barel-Ben David, Technion, Israel

Co-author: Ayelet Baram-Tsabari

The case of science communication in Israel is a very perplexing one. On the one hand, Israel is positioned 22nd in the world regarding its scientific research and publications (Getz et al., 2013). On the other hand it was classified as having a “fragile” science communication culture (Mejlgaardet al. 2012). One aspect of this categorization is science journalism infrastructure that affects the science and technology coverage in the daily news media reaching the public.

Comparing this aspect between Israel as a case study of a “fragile” science communication culture and the “consolidated” culture of the UK, may highlight differences between the two cultures, and may hint for steps needed in order to advance from one category to the other.

A systematic examination of the scope and characteristics of science and technology coverage in the Israeli news media was conducted over a period of six consecutive months. STEM items published in four news media (newspapers, news sites, TV and radio news shows) were collected and catalogued according to a codebook based mainly on Mellor’s (2011) BBC study, which was used for comparison, regarding the BBC as a role model for science coverage a “fragile science communication culture” should aspire to.

During 183 days a total of 1,064 items were collected and catalogued from 20 media sources. Findings point to similarities to findings from the BBC study in scientific fields covered (mostly medicine and life sciences) and focus on local research. The main difference was found in regarding to the frequency of science coverage between the two countries. The overall frequency of science items comprised a total of 1.8% of the news published at that time in Israel. These numbers are much smaller than the 4.6% reported in Mellor’s BBC study.