Communicating Science in Social Contexts

pp 71-92

Medialization of Science as a Prerequisite of Its Legitimization and Political Relevance

  • Hans Peter PetersAffiliated withProgram Group Humans-Environment-Technology (INB-MUT), Forschungszentrum Jülich Email author 
  • , Harald HeinrichsAffiliated withInstitute for Environmental and Sustainability Communication, Leuphana University Lüneburg
  • , Arlena JungAffiliated withInstitute for Science and Technology Studies, Bielefeld University
  • , Monika KallfassAffiliated withProgram Group Humans-Environment-Technology (INB-MUT), Forschungszentrum Jülich
  • , Imme PetersenAffiliated withResearch Centre on Biotechnology, Society and the Environment, Medicine and Neuroscience Section, University of Hamburg

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Sociologists have diagnosed an increasing ‘medialization’ of science—that is, an orientation towards the mass media, with the consequence that media criteria become relevant within science. The medialization of science is seen in this chapter as a consequence of the medialization of politics. Based on empirical surveys of German researchers, public information officers of science organizations and decision-makers in the political-administrative system, as well as a hermeneutical analysis of German press coverage, the authors analyse the manifestations and political impacts of medialization in the public communication of scientists and science organizations. Two biomedical fields—stem cell research and epidemiology—are used as case studies. Results of the empirical analyses support the hypothesis that the medialization of science, in so far as it guides the public communication strategies of scientific actors, increases the chances of scientific actors being noticed and taken seriously by the political-administrative system. Effects are seen in a contribution to the legitimization of science by reinforcing the perception of its social relevance and in improving the chances of scientific expertise becoming effective in policy-making.


Legitimization media constructs of science media contacts of scientists medialization political impact of science coverage public relations of science