Calling it a 'war on science' has consequences


EXCERPT: . . . Framing is how communicators put an issue in context – whether naively or on purpose. For years, communication scholars have criticized journalists for frequently framing issues as conflicts or games rather than trying to find more meaningful ways to understand disagreement. For example, researchers have argued that too much media coverage of climate change focuses on the “fight” between conservatives and liberals. This kind of framing problem isn’t exclusive to science-related coverage – but science communicators don’t need to contribute to the problem.

[...] We adapted the science article from a 2017 Scientific American blog that framed the Trump administration’s approach to scientific evidence as a “war on science.” The article called the administration liars, talking about specific “attacks” and trying to rally scientists to fight back.

We trimmed this initial article for length and then changed some wording to make two alternate versions. Rather than a war, one framed the current situation as either a “challenge for science,” while the other used the frame of a “neglect of science.”

[...] When liberals viewed the “war on science”-framed article as an aggressive message, their ratings of scientists’ credibility increased. On the other hand, when viewed as aggressive, the “war on science” framing pushed down conservatives’ perceptions of scientists’ credibility. While not everyone saw the same content as aggressive, when they did, it affected credibility perceptions.

[...] There may be times when an aggressive tone and conflict-framing is helpful for getting one’s existing supporters to donate money or perform some other behavior. But we have not seen any evidence that it helps expand the scope of support. Our hope is to encourage science communicators to make choices about things like framing purposefully and to encourage research into approaches that increase the number of friends of science.

In making this argument, we’re mindful of examples such as the LGBT community’s efforts to stay away from conflict framing in its efforts to build support and lessen opposition to same-sex marriage. Rather than asking people to pick a side, the LGBT community framed marriage as a simple issue of love being love, not a fight for rights.

Aggressive tactics can come into play when those running for political office use personal attacks and negative advertising to gain advantage against their opponents. Although such an uncivil approach can damage the image of the candidate making the attacks, he or she has time to rebuild their image with supporters before the next election.

In order to have a positive impact, the science community cannot rely on aggressive communication tactics. Science needs continuous and broad support, across the ideological spectrum...


Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)