Team effort needed to report on science, U of Alberta study says

Trust in science is diminishing, according to recent studies, especially in the area of biomedicine, biotech and genetics. University of Alberta researchers Tim Caulfield and Tania Bubela blame it on the complexity of many discoveries and they’re concerned the whole message from the study isn’t getting across to the general public.

Caulfield, who is jointly appointed in the Faculty of Law and School of Public Health, and Bubela, also from the School of Public Health, and a group of 22 international experts in health, law, science and communications gathered to discuss ways to ensure the message is complete. They came up with eight recommendations for scientists, universities and media, including:

  • The wide-ranging factors that contribute to hype and errors must be more explicitly recognized, such as pressure on researchers to make research seem immediately relevant.
  • Scientists, media and policy makers need to ensure the message is ‘framed’ properly, meaning it is clear why a given scientific issue might be a problem, who or what might be responsible and what should be done.
  • Researchers should be taught how to communicate their findings clearly with media and policy makers — a lay, non-science audience.

All the recommendations are published in the June edition of Nature Biotechnology.

Both are available for interview, please contact me directly. I can also provide you a copy of the study.

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