Science told by ‘science’ – The story of EurekAlert!
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
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices