612   Individual paper

Science news websites as mediators between scientists and the public

Author: Avshalom Ginosar
The Academic College of Yezreel Valley, Israel

This study addresses one of the challenging topics which Science Communication as a research field attempts to explore, analyze and provide solutions for: how to make science accessible for the general public. Although the information-era enables scientists to directly communicate their scientific work to the public through personal blogs and websites, journalism still plays a major role in mediating between scientists and lay-people. Commonly, it is through science news published on general news websites. However, in this study we investigate a less popular, yet promising, online channel: science news websites, which are studied only to a limited extent. The study focuses on five major science news websites in Israel and aims at understanding their nature and their actual and potential contribution to the public's knowledge about, and awareness of, various scientific issues. In this presentation we address only our first research question: What are the characteristics of the five science news websites, and to what extent do they act and operate as journalistic institutions? To answer the question, we content analyzed each item published on the websites during four months; altogether 395 items. Initial findings show that the only private-owned website has published 44% of the items, while the other four (operated by: a science institution, an environmental research association, and scientist/medical-doctors’ groups) have each published 7-20% of the items. The authors comprised of 46% scientists/experts, 18% journalists and 14% others. The text-types are informative/news: 63%; interpretative texts: 19%; opinionated texts and others: 6%. Almost all items were supported by images (80%) and/or video (25%). The published scientific topics greatly vary from climate change to nature-conservation, galaxies, and vaccination. Our initial observation is that although these websites format is very similar to a traditional journalistic formats, the authors and the writing are quite different than these of general journalistic websites.

Co-author: Tali Tal
Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Israel

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