Science in the Media: A Meta Analysis

The presentation of science in the mass media is one of the most important questions facing social scientists who analyse science. Accordingly, media coverage of science has been a constant focal point in the respective literature, and a flurry of such publications have appeared in the past years. However, these studies are extremely heterogeneous; most of them are unrelated case studies in different countries, topics, media, time periods etc. which are difficult to compare. And the activity and growth of the respective research has not been accompanied by systematic overviews. This project provides such an overview by means of a meta-analysis: It analyses existing scholarly studies systematically and provides an empirical overview of the literature. It pursues two objectives:

  1. The first objective is to describe what has been analysed most and with which results, as well as to highlight the desiderata of the research: What disciplines have been analysed (mostly)? The coverage of which media has been included? Analyses of which countries are available? What methodological strategies have been employed? etc.
  2. The second objective is to describe typical patterns of coverage and relate these to theories of science reporting: Which topics are usually depicted positively in the mass media, which ones negatively? In which countries or in which media is the coverage more likely to be 'science friendly'? Is there a trend towards more "mediatization" across media, themes and/or countries?

These questions are answered by a systematic analysis of previous studies on media coverage of science. Relevant scientific literature databases - for example the ISI Web of Knowledge or Google Scholar - are searched for studies on the subject using key words. In this way, research papers from renowned peer review journals as well as monographs and edited volumes are included in the analysis.

A number of formal variables for the selected studies is then coded using a content analysis (Which scientific topic is examined, in what medium, in which spatiotemporal context, using what method?).  In addition, key findings of the studies are recorded using qualitative methods (Who has his say on the respective subject in the media, which interpretation patterns are used? etc.).

Involved: Mike S. Schäfer, Andreas Schmidt
Duration and Funding: 2009-2010, proprietary project

Publications and Talks

Schäfer, Mike S. (2010): Taking Stock: a Meta-Analysis of Studies on the Media's Coverage of Science. In: Public Understanding of Science. Sage Online First Article. (DOI: 10.1177/0963662510387559).