– Danish Science Journalists Association Spring Conference 2009
Have you been framed? | Programme | Practical details | Register | Participants 2018 10/21


A fragmented media reality
The rise of new media (blogs) and social media (twitter, del.icio.us) has changed the rules of engagement in science communication.

New types of media platforms emerge by the minute, print media circulation numbers are dropping and communication takes place in an ever more fragmented digital media reality.

Regardless of whether you are a science journalist, a science communicator or a scientist, a new approach towards science communication is emerging.

What impact will this have on you?
At this years’ interactive conference the Danish Association of Science Journalists will take a peek into the future by proposing your reality to expert prognoses from our invited national and international speakers.

We aim to draw the current landscape of science communication, inspire you with new tools to optimize your impact particularly focusing on the concept of ‘framing’ and we will formulate three focus points for our common challenges in the future of science communication.

The conference takes place on June 11. at the Danish School of Education, Tuborgvej 164, 2400 Copenhagen NV. The detailed programme reads as follows:


8:00 AM
Registration and coffee
9:00 AM

Michael de Laine, Chairman of Danish Science Journalists' Association


Morning programme: The journalists' landscape
Moderator for the day: William Cullerne Bown, Managing Director, ResearchResearch


Comments on the landscape by
Anne Knudsen, editor and director, Weekendavisen – Priorities & perspectives

Matthew Nisbet, Ph.d., Assistant professor, communication, American University: Going broad, going deep, going direct
Science organizations and many journalists have traditionally conceived of communication as a process of knowledge transmission. Communication is directed at filling in the »deficit« in knowledge among the public about the technical details of a science issue, with the assumption that if the public only understood the facts of the science, then they would be more likely to view the relevance and solutions to a problem such as energy as experts do. Following from these traditional assumptions, the primary strategy has been to inform the public by way of traditional popular science outlets such as television documentaries, science magazines, newspaper science coverage, and more recently, science Web sites and blogs. 

Yet most members of the public lack the time, ability, and/or motivation to seek out and assess high quality sources of media information, and instead rely on cognitive shortcuts and heuristic decision making to reach opinions and decisions. The nature of the media system further exacerbates this human tendency. The increase in online and digitally-based content choices available to a general audience, paired with decreasing public affairs news consumption among younger age groups, makes reaching wider audiences via traditional science coverage increasingly difficult.

As a result, the future of public communication about science--and science journalism generally--is likely to include three key general trends and innovations, with the last two shifting communication away from transmission towards inter-active dialogue and mediated deliberations about science. It will also mean new professional roles, norms, and skills for science journalists.

  1. »Going broad« and reaching a diversity of audiences across non-traditional media platforms such as entertainment film and television, new genres of documentary film, new forms of multi-media storytelling, new genres involving satire and comedy, and through collaborations with the creative arts.
  2. »Going deep« and creating new non-profit and government-supported forms of digital science journalism, especially at the local or regional level, that offer rich reservoirs of information via content contributed by professional journalists, experts, citizen journalists, and that is re-purposed, re-mixed, and commented on by a variety of users.
  3. »Going direct« and creating institutionally sponsored inter-active media in the form of videos, blogs, and other forms of interactive media. These contexts should serve as “virtual” forums and spaces for dialogue, deliberation, trust, and relationship-building that emphasize not just achieving consensus but also the value of respectful disagreement.

Michael Gross, Doctor in physical biochemistry, Science writer for eight years, author of The birds and the bees and the platypuses: Is science reporting turning into fast food? Science journalism and the new media revolution …

I have been writing about scientific progress—first as a night-time hobby journalist and then as a full-time freelance writer—for 15 years. While we are immersed in such an occupation, it is difficult to see it evolving and to assess shifting norms and boundaries.

I have recently had the opportunity to reflect on how much science reporting has changed during that time span, and what the possible impact of modern forms of communication, such as blogging, may be.

I have observed that the competition for readers’ attention and the general acceleration of communications has restricted the range of scientific subjects that can be reported. Only topics that can be presented in a tempting light and easily digested tend to survive, replacing food for thought with a more superficial mental diet.

 Coffee break and networking

Three strategic communication recommendations for researchers, journalists and communicators

 Presentation of workshop recommendations
12:30–2:00 PM
Lunch break and networking
 Afternoon programme: Framing research

Framing, strategy and policy-making
Matthew Nisbet, Ph.d., assistant professor, communication, American University: The Ethics of Framing Science
Research from the social sciences on framing offers a rich explanation for how various actors in society define science-related issues in politically strategic ways, how journalists from various beats selectively cover these issues, and how diverse publics differentially perceive, understand, and participate in these debates.

For each group, frames help simplify complex issues by lending greater weight to certain considerations and arguments over others, translating why an issue might be a problem, who or what might be responsible, and what should be done. In this manner, frames provide common points of reference and meaning between scientists, the media, and key publics.

At an applied level, science institutions can use research on framing to design and plan their communication initiatives, thereby promoting public learning, empowering public participation, or moving discussion beyond polarization and gridlock. Journalists can draw upon this research to craft novel, accessible, and relevant narratives for nontraditional audiences across media formats, expanding their journalistic reach and audience connection.

Yet, critics argue that these audience-based approaches to science communication imperil the perceived objectivity, neutrality, and independence of scientists and journalists, while reinforcing a tradition of “top down” communication from experts to the public. In this presentation, I address these concerns by outlining four key ethical guidelines to follow in applying framing to public engagement, focusing specifically on the normative obligations of scientists, journalists, and their affiliated organizations.


Impact of framing on science
Barbara Ann Halkier, Ph.d., associate professor, Faculty of Life Sciences University of Copenhagen

As a plant scientist I am very pleased to see that plant science is experiencing a true renaissance as there is an increasing awareness that plants can provide the solution to the  increased demand for food, feed and bioenergy in the world. Gene technology in the form of genetically modified crop plants is an obvious solution for many plant scientists, but the media often refers quite negatively to this technology, which also influences the grant agencies.

Based on my own research in bioactive natural plant products, I will also discuss the dilemma many scientists find themselves in regarding their credibility as a scientist if their research is successfully exploited commercially, - as they are obliged to do in order to obey the law about patenting of inventions. Can their expertise still be requested by the media, or have they lost their credibility?


Public knowledge about research, and the role of journalism in Denmark and the Middle East
Jacob Skovgaard-Petersen, Professor, Department of Cross-cultural and regional studies

Danish media spend significant sums and efforts covering the Middle East and Islam. But noone in the media has a background in the sciences covering these fields. This has led to extensive consultation of the few scholars of the Middle East and Islam.

But given the political nature of the subject – the Arab-Israeli conflict, but particularly the deep political divisions over the issue of immigration from Muslim countries – this is a field where the input of scholars is not simply accepted.

While a skeptical attitude towards scholarship is generally commendable, the uncritical attitude adopted towards alternative “scholarship” and other sources of information is disquieting.

Even well-known commentators and editorialist do not seem to feel the need to engage with serious reading on the subject before passing judgment on major regions and religions in the world – and their books are the ones that get sold (and reviewed in the same media).

The paper will give some examples of the discrepancies between scholarship and journalism, and of some of the methods of framing adopted by certain media towards scholarship when it comes to the Middle East and Islam.

 Coffee break and networking
 Debate with audience and speakers
5:00 PM
End of programme
6:00 PM

Conference dinner
Brewpub, Vestergade 29. The menu (items will be substituted for allergics etc):

  • Asparagus with a herbal smoked cheese dressing and fjord shrimps
  • Roast fillet of veal with a cucumber / strawberry relish and new potatoes
  • St. Bishop cheese with baked tomato and malt bread crostini
  • Chocolate fondant with strawberries

The dinner will be accompanied by a beer menu.


2009-03-04, Mogens Bisgaard

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