Passive communicators: Investigating Chinese scientists’ interaction with media

Passive communicators: Investigating Chinese scientists’ interaction with media

Author: Hepeng Jia – Cornell University, United States

Lin Shi – Tsinghua University
Dapeng Wang – China Research Institute for Science Popularization (CRISP)

Examining scientists’ interaction with media is a key theme of science communication scholarship. But so far none systematic research has investigated how Chinese scientists deal with media. Through an online survey responded by more than 500 Chinese scientists, we found that although nearly all of them considered public science communication important, only a small portion of Chinese scientists regularly had media contacts. Chinese scientists’ low media interaction is both a result of the lack of incentives in their assessment system and related to their distrust of media, the perceived limited role of media in Chinese science policymaking, and insufficient institutional supports to help them link to and deal with media. More specifically, 52% of surveyed scientists did not have media contact in the past year, and receiving media interviews was the least popular science communication activity listed by surveyed scientists, accounting for only 8.6%.

Scientists’ low evaluation of the media’s role and capacity in reporting science seems to be a major reason. More than 56% surveyees agreed or extremely agreed to the statement that science journalists often neglected important information in science and over 54% thought science journalists often used sensational way to report science. The passive media behavior of Chinese scientists was worsened by the underperformance of the PR staffs, or public information officers (PIOs), of their institutions. Some 47.6% scientists said in the past year, the PR persons have never contacted them while only 3.2% of surveyed scientists said they were moderately reached by their PIOs.

Our result highlights not only the necessity to work out more policy incentives to promote science communication, but also the urgency to narrow the gap between science and media through various interaction activities. Research institutions’ publicity function must also be enhanced to help scientists better cope with media.

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