Science and the media in South Africa: Reflecting a 'dirty mirror'

Claassen G. (2011)

Article

The public understanding of science is vital in any society, to counter pseudoscientific claims and quackery. The relationship between scientists and the media (the latter often the only channel through which scientific findings reach the public) was studied within a South African framework. An empirical survey was conducted by means of a comprehensive questionnaire sent to 740 South African scientists and researchers and 360 journalists. Because the media are important in the public understanding of science, the survey tried to establish the depth of and possible reasons for distrust between the two professions and what structures could be put in place to overcome this. This study found some significant differences in the views of scientists and journalists about the role of science in society, how it could be communicated to the public, and the reasons for this dichotomy. Finally, proposals to bridge the gap between scientists and the media are made: the media should give serious attention to raise the standards of science reporting by establishing science desks headed by properly trained science editors and well-trained science reporters. On the other hand, scientists should be trained to communicate better with the media and, therefore, the public. © 2011 Copyright Unisa Press.

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