Stem Cell Reviews and Reports

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 1–7 | Cite as

In the Know and in the News: How Science and the Media Communicate About Stem Cells, Autism and Cerebral Palsy

Article

Abstract

Stem cell research has generated considerable attention for its potential to remediate many disorders of the central nervous system including neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and cerebral palsy (CP) that place a high burden on individual children, families and society. Here we characterized messaging about the use of stem cells for ASD and CP in news media articles and concurrent dissemination of discoveries through conventional science discourse. We searched LexisNexis and Canadian Newsstand for news articles from the US, UK, Canada and Australia in the period between 2000 and 2014, and PubMed for peer reviewed articles for the same 10 years. Using in-depth content analysis methods, we found less cautionary messaging about stem cells for ASD and CP in the resulting sample of 73 media articles than in the sample of 87 science papers, and a privileging of benefits over risk. News media also present stem cells as ready for clinical application to treat these neurodevelopmental disorders, even while the science literature calls for further research. Investigative news reports that explicitly quote researchers, however, provide the most accurate information to actual science news. The hope, hype, and promise of stem cell interventions for neurodevelopmental disorders, combined with the extreme vulnerability of these children and their families, creates a perfect storm in which journalists and stem cell scientists must commit to a continued, if not even more robust, partnership to promote balanced and accurate messaging.

Keywords

Stem cells Cerebral palsy Autism spectrum disorder Media Newspaper reporting 

References

  1. 1.
    Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism (2010). The state of the news media: an annual report of American journalism. http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2010/. Accessed 12 June 2015.
  2. 2.
    Hughes, E., Kitzinger, J., & Murdock, G. (2008). Media discourses and framing of risk. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/jomec/resources/KitzingerWkPaper27.pdf. Accessed 12 June 2015.
  3. 3.
    Becker, A., Dalrymple, K., Brossard, D., Scheufele, D., & Gunther, A. (2010). Getting citizens involved: how controversial policy debates stimulate issue participation during a political campaign. The International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 22(2), 181–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Zarzeczny, A., & Caulfield, T. (2010). Stem cell tourism and doctors’ duties to minors—a view from Canada. The American Journal of Bioethics, 10(5), 3–15.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Johnston, R., Crooks, V., & Snyder, J. (2012). I didn’t even know what I was looking for”: a qualitative study of the decision-making processes of Canadian medical tourists. Global Health, 8(1), 23.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Petersen, A., Seear, K., & Munsie, M. (2013). Therapeutic journeys: the hopeful travails of stem cell tourists. Sociology of Health & Illness, 36(5), 670–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Vicsek, L. (2011). Costs and benefits of stem cell research and treatment: media presentation and audience understanding in Hungary. Science Communication, 33(3), 309–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Zarzeczny, A., Rachul, C., Nisbet, M., & Caulfield, T. (2010). Stem cell clinics in the news. Nature Biotechnology, 28(12), 1243–1246.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Priest, S. (2006). The public opinion climate for gene technologies in Canada and the United States: competing voices, contrasting frames. Public Understanding of Science, 15(1), 55–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Reis, P. (2008). How Brazilian and North American newspapers frame the stem cell research debate. Science Communication, 29(3), 316–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Bubela, T., Li, M. D., Hafez, M., Bieber, M., & Atkins, H. (2012). Is belief larger than fact: expectations, optimism and reality for translational stem cell research. BMC Medicine, 10(1), 133.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Marks, L., Kalaitzandonakes, N., Wilkins, L., & Zakharova, L. (2007). Mass media framing of biotechnology news. Public Understanding of Science, 16(2), 183–203.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    McCombs, M., & Shaw, D. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 176–187.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Murdoch, C., & Scott, C. (2010). Stem cell tourism and the power of hope. The American Journal of Bioethics, 10(5), 16–23.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hyun, I. (2013). Therapeutic hope, spiritual distress and the problem of stem cell tourism. Cell Stem Cell, 12(5), 505–507.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Benjaminy, S., & Bubela, T. (2014). Ocular gene transfer in the spotlight: implications of newspaper content for clinical communications. BMC Medical Ethics, 15, 58.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Baum, M. (2002). Sex, lies, and war: how soft news brings foreign policy to the inattentive public. The American Political Science Review, 96(1), 91–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Baum, M. (2003). Soft news and political knowledge: evidence of absence or absence of evidence? Political Communication, 20(2), 173–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Henderson, L., & Kitzinger, J. (1999). The human drama of genetics: ‘hard’and ‘soft’media representations of inherited breast cancer. Sociology of Health & Illness, 21(5), 560–578.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Petersen, A., & Sear, K. (2011). Technologies of hope: techniques of the online advertising of stem cell treatments. New Genetics and Society, 30(4), 329–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Nisbet, M., & Scheufele, D. (2009). What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96(10), 1767–1778.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Benjaminy, S., Kowal, S. P., MacDonald, I. M., & Bubela, T. (2015). Communicating the promise for ocular gene therapies: challenges and recommendations. American Journal of Ophthalmology, 160(3), 408-415.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Robillard, J. M., Cabral, E., Hennessey, C., Kwon, B. K., & Illes, J. (2015). Fueling hope: stem cells in social media. Stem Cell Reviews and Reports, 11(4), 540–546.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Robillard, J. M., Johnson, T. W., Hennessey, C., Beattie, B. L., & Illes, J. (2013). Aging 2.0: health information about dementia on twitter. PLoS ONE, 8(7), e69861.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Chou, W. S., Hunt, Y. M., Beckjord, E. B., Moser, R. P., & Hesse, B. W. (2009). Social media use in the United States: implications for health communication. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 11(4), e48.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Reimer, J., Borgelt, E., & Illes, J. (2010). In pursuit of “informed hope” in the stem cell discourse. American Journal of Bioethics, 10(5), 31–32.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Core for Neuroethics, Division of Neurology, Department of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, Vancouver Coastal Health Research InstituteVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations