Can scientists fill the science journalism void? Online public engagement with science stories authored by scientists

Autoři: Yael Barel-Ben David aff001;  Erez S. Garty aff002;  Ayelet Baram-Tsabari aff001
Působiště autorů: Faculty of Education in Science and Technology, Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel aff001;  Davidson Institute–the Educational Arm of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 15(1)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222250


In many countries the public's main source of information about science and technology is the mass media. Unfortunately, in recent years traditional journalism has experienced a collapse, and science journalism has been a major casualty. One potential remedy is to encourage scientists to write for news media about science. On these general news platforms, scientists' stories would have to compete for attention with other news stories on hard (e.g. politics) and entertaining (e.g. celebrity news) topics written by professional writers. Do they stand a chance? This study aimed to quantitatively characterize audience interactions as an indicator of interest in science news stories authored by early career scientists (henceforth ‘scientists’) trained to function as science reporters, as compared to news items written by reporters and published in the same news outlets. To measure users' behavior, we collected data on the number of clicks, likes, comments and average time spent on page. The sample was composed of 150 science items written by 50 scientists trained to contribute popular science stories in the Davidson Institute of Science Education reporters’ program and published on two major Israeli news websites—Mako and Ynet between July 2015 to January 2018. Each science item was paired with another item written by the website’s organic reporter, and published on the same channel as the science story (e.g., tourism, health) and the same close time. Overall significant differences were not found in the public's engagement with the different items. Although, on one website there was a significant difference on two out of four engagement types, the second website did not have any difference, e.g., people did not click, like or comment more on items written by organic reporters than on the stories written by scientists. This creates an optimistic starting point for filling the science news void by scientists as science reporters.

Klíčová slova:

Data mining – Facebook – Graduates – Journalism – Planets – Scientific publishing – Scientists – Social media


1. Takahashi B, Tandoc EC. Media sources, credibility, and perceptions of science: Learning about how people learn about science. Public Underst Sci. 2016 Aug 1;25(6):674–90. doi: 10.1177/0963662515574986 25792288

2. Peters HP, Dunwoody S, Allgaier J, Lo Y-YY, Brossard D, Brossard D, et al. Public communication of science 2.0: Is the communication of science via the “New Media” online a genuine transformation or old wine in new bottles? EMBO Rep. 2014 Jul 1;15(7):749–53. doi: 10.15252/embr.201438979 24920610

3. Castell S, Charlton A, Clemence M, Pettigrew N, Pope S, Quigley A, et al. Public attitudes to science 2014. London, Ipsos MORI Soc Res Institute 194p. 2014;

4. National Science Board. Science & Engineering Indicators. 2018.

5. Stanyer J. Web 2.0 and the transformation of news and journalism. Abingdon Routledge Routledge Handb internet Polit. 2009;201–13.

6. Brossard D, Scheufele DA. Science, New media, and the public. Science (80). 2013;339(6115):40–1.

7. Boyce T. Journalism and expertise. Journal Stud. 2006;7(6):889–906.

8. Carpenter S. An application of the theory of expertise: Teaching broad and skill knowledge areas to prepare journalists for change. Journal Mass Commun Educ. 2009 Sep 1;64(3):287–304.

9. Meyers O, Davidson R. Conceptualizing journalistic careers: Between Interpretive community and tribes of professionalism. Sociol Compass. 2016 Jun;10(6):419–31.

10. Reich Z, Godler Y. De-specialization: The dialectic model of journalistic expertise. In: The 6th Israeli Science Communication Conference. Rehovot; 2015.

11. Crow DA, Stevens JR. Local science reporting relies on generalists, not specialists. Newsp Res J. 2012;33(3):35–48.

12. Jackson D, Moloney K. Inside churnalism. Journal Stud. 2016 Aug 17;17(6):763–80.

13. Moloney K, Jackson D, Mcqueen D. News Journalism and Public Relations: A Dangerous Relationship. In: Allan S, Fowler-Watt K, editors. Journalism: New Challenges. Bournemouth: Centre for Journalism and Communication Research, Bournemouth University; 2013. p. 259–81.

14. Autzen C. Press releases—the new trend in science communication. J Sci Commun. 2014;13(3).

15. Ashwell DJ. The challenges of science journalism: The perspectives of scientists, science communication advisors and journalists from New Zealand. Public Underst Sci. 2016 Apr 11;25(3):379–93. doi: 10.1177/0963662514556144 25387869

16. Sumner P, Vivian-Griffiths S, Boivin J, Williams A, Bott L, Adams R, et al. Exaggerations and caveats in press releases and health-related science news. Wilsdon J, editor. PLoS One. 2016 Dec 15;11(12):e0168217. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0168217 27978540

17. Murcott THL, Williams A. The challenges for science journalism in the UK. Prog Phys Geogr. 2013 Apr 11;37(2):152–60.

18. Yong E. On cheerleaders and watchdogs–the role of science journalism [Internet]. National Geographic. 2009 [cited 2019 Nov 5]. p. Science (80-.). Available from:

19. Figdor C. (When) Is Science Reporting Ethical? The Case for Recognizing Shared Epistemic Responsibility in Science Journalism. Front Commun. 2017 Feb 2;2:3.

20. Fahy D, Nisbet MC. The science journalist online: Shifting roles and emerging practices. Journalism. 2011 Sep 8;12(7):778–793.

21. Watts S. Society needs more than wonder to respect science. Nature. 2014 Apr 9;508(7495):151–151. doi: 10.1038/508151a 24717473

22. Nisbet MC, Brossard D, Kroepsch A. Framing science: The stem cell controversy in an age of press/politics. Harvard Int J Press. 2003;8(2):36–70.

23. Editorial. Filling the void. Nature. 2009 Mar 19;458(7236):260–260. doi: 10.1038/458260a 19295556

24. Peters HP. Gap between science and media revisited: Scientists as public communicators. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Aug 20;110(Supplement_3):14102–14109.

25. Colson V. Science blogs as competing channels for the dissemination of science news. Journalism. 2011 Oct 1;12(7):889–902.

26. Editorial. Why researchers should resolve to engage in 2017. Nature. 2017 Jan 4;541(7635):5–5. doi: 10.1038/541005a 28054620

27. Lewandowsky S, Ecker UKH, Cook J. Beyond misinformation: Understanding and coping with the “Post-truth” era. J Appl Res Mem Cogn. 2017 Dec 1;6(4):353–69.

28. Baron N. Escape from the ivory tower: A Guide to making your science matter. Island Press; 2010.

29. Bass E, Fox S, Duggan M, Letourneau R, Merlino J, Raman A, et al. The importance of bringing science and medicine to lay audiences. circulation. 2016 Jun 7;133(23):2334–7. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.116.023297 27267539

30. Peterman K, Robertson Evia J, Cloyd E, Besley JC. Assessing public engagement outcomes by the use of an outcome expectations scale for scientists. Sci Commun. 2017 Dec 3;39(6):782–97.

31. Jensen P, Rouquier J-B, Kreimer P, Croissant Y. Scientists who engage with society perform better academically. Sci Public Policy. 2008 Aug 1;35(7):527–41.

32. Gerhards J, Schafer MS. Is the internet a better public sphere? Comparing old and new media in the USA and Germany. New Media Soc. 2010 Feb 1;12(1):143–60.

33. Brown P. An explosion of alternatives: considering the future of science journalism. EMBO Rep. 2014 Aug 26;15(8):827–32. doi: 10.15252/embr.201439130 24968892

34. Alperin JP, Gomez CJ, Haustein S. Identifying diffusion patterns of research articles on Twitter: A case study of online engagement with open access articles. Public Underst Sci. 2018 Apr 2;096366251876173.

35. Ranger M, Bultitude K. “The kind of mildly curious sort of science interested person like me”: Science bloggers’ practices relating to audience recruitment. Public Underst Sci. 2016 Apr 1;25(3):361–78. doi: 10.1177/0963662514555054 25361791

36. Wilkes J. Training scientists to be journalists: Clear and accessible writing is not good enough for the public. Above all, it has to have sparkle. EMBO Rep. 2002 Nov 1;3(11):1005–8. doi: 10.1093/embo-reports/kvf225 12429606

37. Bauer MW, Howard S, Jessica Romo Ramos Y, Massarani L, Amorim L, Ramos R, et al. Global science journalism report: working conditions and practices, professional ethos and future expectations. London; 2013.

38. McQuail D. The influence and effects of mass media. Mass Commun Soc. 1977;70–93.

39. McQuail D. Accountability of media to society: Principles and means. Eur J Commun. 1997;12(4):511.

40. Scheufele DA, Tewksbury D. Framing, agenda setting, and priming: The evolution of three media effects models. J Commun. 2007 Mar;57(1):9–20.

41. Rakedzon T, Segev E, Chapnik N, Yosef R, Baram-Tsabari A. Automatic jargon identifier for scientists engaging with the public and science communication educators. Lozano S, editor. PLoS One. 2017 Aug 9;12(8):e0181742. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181742 28792945

42. Mogull SA. A call for new courses to train scientists as effective communicators in contemporary government and business settings. Appl Res. 2008;55(4):357–69.

43. Fahnestock J. Accommodating science—The rhetorical life of scientific facts. Writ Commun. 1986;3(3):275–96.

44. Rakedzon T, Baram-Tsabari A. Synergy or interference in learning to write scientific genres: Assessing and improving L2 students’ popular science writing in an academic writing course. Educ Psychol. 2016; doi: 10.1080/00461520.2016.1207177

45. Somerville RCJ, Hassol SJ. Communicating the science of climate change. Phys Today. 2011;64(10):48–53.

46. Reinemann C, Stanyer J, Scherr S, Legnante G. Hard and soft news: A review of concepts, operationalizations and key findings. Journalism. 2012 Feb 1;13(2):221–39.

47. Tenenboim O, Cohen AA. What prompts users to click and comment: A longitudinal study of online news. Journalism. 2015 Dec 31;16(2):198–217.

48. Reich Z. User Comments—The Transformation of Participatory Space. In: Participatory Journalism. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell; 2011. p. 96–117.

49. Anderson C. Between creative and quantified audiences: Web metrics and changing patterns of newswork in local US newsrooms. Journalism. 2011 Jul 1;12(5):550–66.

50. MacGregor P. Tracking the online audience metric data start a subtle revolution. Journal Stud. 2007 Apr;8(2):280–98.

51. Tandoc EC. Journalism is twerking? How web analytics is changing the process of gatekeeping. New Media Soc. 2014 Jun 11;16(4):559–75.

52. Boczkowski P, Mitchelstein E. The news gap: When the information preferences of the media and the public diverge‏. 2013‏.

53. Ksiazek TB. Commenting on the news. Journal Stud. 2018 Apr 4;19(5):650–73.

54. Kormelink TG, Meijer IC. What clicks actually mean: Exploring digital news user practices. Journalism. 2018 May 22;19(5):668–83. doi: 10.1177/1464884916688290 29782573

55. Boczkowski PJ, Mitchelstein E. How users take advantage of different forms of interactivity on online news sites: Clicking, E-Mailing, and Commenting. Hum Commun Res. 2012 Jan 8;38(1):1–22.

56. Ksiazek TB, Peer L, Lessard K. User engagement with online news: Conceptualizing interactivity and exploring the relationship between online news videos and user comments. New Media Soc. 2016 Mar 11;18(3):502–20.

57. Laslo E, Baram-Tsabari A, Lewenstein B V. A Growth medium for the message: Online science journalism affordances for exploring public discourse of science and ethics. Journal Theory, Pract Crit. 2011 Sep;12(7):847–70.

58. Kahle K, Sharon AJ, Baram-Tsabari A, Thomas G, Durant J, Shortland M, et al. Footprints of fascination: Digital traces of public engagement with particle physics on CERN’s social media platforms. Hernandez Montoya AR, editor. PLoS One. 2016 May 27;11(5):e0156409. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156409 27232498

59. Baram-Tsabari A, Orr D, Baer A, Garty E, Golumbic Y, Halevy M, et al. The history and evolution of science communication in israel. In: Gascoigne T, Lewenstein B V., Massarani L, Schiele B, Broks P, Riedlinger M, et al., editors. The Emergence of Modern Science Communication. 1st ed. ANU Press; 2020.

60. SimilarWeb. Top News And Media Websites in Israel [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2018 Jan 17]. Available from:

61. StatCounter Global Stats. Social media stats Israel 2019 [Internet]. StatCounter Global Stats. 2019 [cited 2019 Oct 26]. Available from:

62. Ministry of Science Technology and Space. Tfisot veAmadot Hatsibur beIsrael legabei mada, technologia vehalal [Attitudes and Preceptions of Science, Technology and Space in Israel]. Tel-Aviv; 2017.

63. Miller JD, Augenbraun E, Schulhof J, Kimmel LG. Adult science learning from local television newscasts. Sci Commun. 2006 Dec 1;28(2):216–42.

64. Eveland WPJ, Cooper KE. An integrated model of communication influence on beliefs. PNAS. 2013;110.

65. Jensen JD, Hurley RJ. Conflicting stories about public scientific controversies: Effects of news convergence and divergence on scientists’ credibility. Public Underst Sci. 2012 Aug;21(6):689–704. doi: 10.1177/0963662510387759 23832155

66. Dixon G, Clarke C. The effect of falsely balanced reporting of the autism–vaccine controversy on vaccine safety perceptions and behavioral intentions. Health Educ Res. 2012;8.

67. Dixon GN, Clarke CE. Heightening uncertainty around certain science: media coverage, false balance, and the autism-vaccine controversy. Sci Commun. 2013;35(3):358–82.

68. Barel Y, Baram-Tsabari A, Peleg R, Armon R, Rave A. Towards evidence-based policy in science communication in Israel: Science coverage characteristics in Hebrew-language print, broadcast and online media, 2013–2014. [Hebrew]. Haifa; 2015.

69. Baram-Tsabari A, Schejter A. The Double-Edged Sword of New Media in Supporting Public Engagement with Science. In: Kali Y, Schejter A, Baram-Tsabari A, editors. Learning in a Networked Society Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) book series. Computer S. Springer; 2019. p. 79–95.

70. McNair B. Journalism and Democracy. In: Wahl-Jorgensen K, Hanitzsch T, editors. The Handbook of Journalism Studies. Routledge; 2009. p. 237–49.

71. Weingart P, Guenther L. Science communication and the issue of trust. J Sci Commun. 2016;15(5):C01.

72. Brossard D. New media landscapes and the science information consumer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 20;110 Suppl(Supplement 3):14096–101.

Článek vyšel v časopise


2020 Číslo 1