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Asian Bioethics Review

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 199–209 | Cite as

Media portrayal of stem cell research: towards a normative model for science communication

  • Kalina KamenovaEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

As the field of science communication has matured over the past 50 years, there has been a significant move away from the conventional understanding that mass media’s role in the public communication of science is limited to reporting new scientific discoveries. Media have been increasingly viewed as important for the legitimation of science and scholars have recognized their agenda-setting effects and ability to facilitate interaction between the public, scientific community, policymakers, interest groups, and other social actors. This article draws on analyses of news media coverage of stem cell research between 1998 and 2013 to demonstrate the active role of mass media in validating scientific claims about discoveries in the field and shaping the public understanding of key bioethical and policy issues. It further assesses whether media, in their attempts to construct the “right” position, have instigated a rational-critical discourse on the controversy. I argue that media representations in different cultural contexts have largely failed to meet normative expectations about the democratization of public discussions on biomedical innovation, as set out in the public engagement with science and technology (PEST) model of science communication. Rather than deconstructing the major terms of science policy debates as framed by stem cell advocates and their opponents, media coverage has mostly replicated discussions in political and legislative arenas, presenting the controversy as a strict binary opposition. Media have rarely provided critical reflection on the hype surrounding breakthroughs in stem cell research, thus reinforcing the public’s unrealistic expectations about the future of this biomedical innovation.

Keywords

Media Stem cell research hESC Science communication Public engagement 

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Copyright information

© National University of Singapore and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute on Ethics & Policy for Innovation (IEPI), Department of Philosophy, Faculty of HumanitiesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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