Science Communication 2005 Abstracts

Science Communication Interest Group

Charting the trails: A Qualitative Study of how Diabetic and Healthy Women find and Evaluate Health Information on the Internet • S. Camille Broadway, University of Florida • This study used a triangulation of three qualitative methods – focus groups, in-depth interviews and think-aloud protocols – to examine the way that healthy and diabetic women find and evaluate health information online. Experience online, perceptions of the U.S. medical system, and perceptions of the Internet affected search and evaluative behaviors. Health searches were rarely limited to just the Internet, and participants were cautious about online material. Few differences were observed between diabetic and healthy searchers.

A Prescription for Self-Presentation: An Analysis of Impression Management Strategies on Health Web Sites • S. Camille Broadway, University of Florida and Colleen Connolly-Ahern, Pennsylvania State University • The Internet is an increasingly important resource for health information. However, little work has been done to describe the characteristics of health Web sites. Additionally, little work has focused on health communication and impression management. This study used quantitative content analysis to assess the extent to which Jones’ impression management strategies (ingratiation, competence, exemplification, supplication and intimidation) are found on health Web sites. Findings indicate that health Web sites are likely to use intimidation strategies.

Do They Know what They Read? Building a Scientific Literacy Measurement Instrument Based on Science Media Coverage • Dominique Brossard, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Jim Shanahan, Cornell University • We propose a novel approach to the conceptualization and measure of a dimension of scientific literacy (the understanding of scientific and technical terms) based on an analysis of media use of randomly selected scientific and technical terms of a scientific dictionary. The 31 terms most often used in the media that were obtained with our method represents what an individual is expected to know within the bounds of normal civic discourse.

Can Health Journalists Bridge the State-of-the-Science Gap in Mammography Guidelines? • Fiona Chew, Syracuse University, Judith Mandelbaum Schmid, World Health Organization and Sue Kun Gao, University of Washington • News media coverage of mammography guidelines regarding women in their forties was compared with National Cancer Institute survey data among women. Women’s understanding of 40 years as the “right age” to start mammography screening did not correspond consistently to the proportion of topical news content. Qualitative interviews with eight magazine health journalists illustrated the emphasis on practical recommendations over scientific knowledge. Implications about reporting and accessing valid information in health/science are discussed.

Environmental Communication: On-the-Ground Challenges and Academic Opportunities • Julia B. Corbett, Deborah C. Callister and Damon M. Hall, University of Utah • This research compared the communication concerns faced by on-the-ground environmental communication practitioners with the research topics of academics in science and environmental communication. Fifty participants representing non-profit, for-profit, and government sectors in the Salt Lake valley attended one of six focus groups. Using a thematic analysis, seven themes were identified from the discussions, including the communication of complex science, the problematic nature of mass media coverage, the effect of cultural stereotypes, and the ever-present nature of environmental conflict.

Frankenfoods and Killer Tomatoes Framing the Biotech Debate in Local News • Catherine E. Crawley, University of Tennessee • This study examines frames used in local newspaper coverage of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and investigates the similarities and differences in frames in news coverage in two U.S. states with high socio-economic interest in agri-food biotechnology. The analysis includes the population of news articles about GMOs published from 1992 when the first genetically modified products received regulatory approval until December 2004 from a collection of newspapers in Northern California and from the St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch.

Applying an Information Seeking and Processing Model to a Study of Communication about Energy • Robert J. Griffin, Zheng Yang, Francesca Borner, Shelly Bourassa Teresa Darrah, Sean Knurek, Sherry Ortiz, Marquette University and Sharon Dunwoody, University of Wisconsin-Madison • Core variables and propositions from a model originally designed to describe information seeking and processing about risks are applied to energy issues. Results indicate that perceived social pressures to learn about energy information, information sufficiency motivation, individuals’ perceived processing abilities, and their beliefs about available channels of information are useful for examining the ways individuals seek and process energy information. These results suggest that the model may be fairly robust in applications beyond risk.

Assessing Newspaper Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies • Wilson Lowrey, Karla K. Gower and William Evans, University of Alabama • This is the first study to systematically assess the extent to which newspapers are prepared to respond to public health emergencies such as bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases. This study models the relationships between community hazards, organizational preparedness, and individual newsworker preparedness. Larger newspapers and publicly owned newspapers manifest relatively higher levels of preparedness. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no relationship between the presence of community hazards and newspaper or newsworker preparedness.

Factors Affecting the Amplification or Attenuation of Public Attitudes and Worry about Bioterrorist Attacks • Lulu Rodriguez, Suman Lee and Jane Peterson, Iowa State University • This study examined whether variables falling under the technical/rational approach or those belonging to the normative/value perspective dominate public worry and dread about bioterrorist attacks. Data gathered through a mail survey of a random sample of citizens throughout the continental US indicate that the technical/rational variable media attention and the normative/value variable perceived readiness of the government to counter bioterrorist threats significantly predicted level of worry.

Wrestling with Objectivity and Fairness U.S. Environment Reporters and the Business Community • David B. Sachsman, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, James Simon, Fairfield University and JoAnn Myer Valenti, Independent Scholar • Environment reporters have been criticized for allegedly having an anti-business bias. This study, based on a series of regional surveys including 364 U.S. environment reporters, found the journalists commonly used a business or economics framework for their stories. The reporters used some business organizations as sources more often than some environmental groups. They acknowledged the need to be fair to both corporations and environmental activists.

Interpersonal Influence: Conversation Sparks Memory for Science-related Media Content • Brian G. Southwell, University of Minnesota • Assessing awareness of science content in popular media lays bare multi-level dynamics that underpin public conception, including the influence of conversation on memory retrieval. An experiment (= 82) demonstrated that those assigned to talk with others about science prior to reporting memory for television mentions of science were four times more likely to report affirmatively than those in a control condition, p<.01. Results suggest interpersonal networks may amplify media-based science communication efforts.

Using Student-produced Media to Promote Healthy Eating in the Home Environment: A Pilot Study on the Effects of a Media and Nutrition Intervention • Andrea Tanner, Sonya Duhe’, Alexandra Evans, University of South Carolina and Marge Condransky, Clemson University • This study evaluated the effectiveness of a media and nutrition literacy program for 4’ and 5th graders to increase fruit and vegetables (FV) intake as well as parental support for this dietary change. Data revealed that a child-produced media campaign was an effective strategy to involve parents in a nutrition intervention and change the home nutrition environment. Parents indicated a greater availability of FV at home and more instrumental support for their children to eat FV.

The Role of Reader Purpose and Expertise in Situation Models Constructed for Health News • Heather J. Ward, San Diego State University • Understanding a health news situation from a single article in a series of articles requires a reader to be highly involved in that situation in order to attain the equivalent degree of understanding of the reader who has read all the articles in the series. The effect of reader purpose and situation expertise on health news fact and inference recognition is evaluated using multiple regression analysis.

Communicating Complex News-Structuring Stories to Enhance Public Engagement and Understanding of Science • Ronald A. Yaros, University of Wisconsin-Madison. • An experimental design, motivated theoretically by models of text comprehension, investigate effects structure in news on readers (N= 235) with little or no expertise for the content (science and technology). Two news stories were modified for a structure posited to enhance reader engagement and comprehension. Compared to the original news stories, structure building text significantly enhanced engagement and understanding for the content. Results are interpreted in the context of enhancing public understanding of complex news.

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