The Future of Public Engagement

The Future of Public Engagement The facts never speak for themselves, which is why scientists need to "frame"

By | October 1, 2007

The Future of Public Engagement

The facts never speak for themselves, which is why scientists need to "frame" their messages to the public.

By Matthew C. Nisbet & Dietram A. Scheufele

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1 Page is just one of several leaders who have called attention to the urgent need for new directions in science communication. Yet unfortunately, still missing from much of the general discussion is a systematic understanding of how the public uses the media to form opinions about science-related topics, and a strategy for moving forward.

The dominant assumption is that ignorance is at the root of conflict over science. According to this traditional "popular science" model, the media should be used to educate the public about the technical details of the issue in dispute. Once citizens are brought up to speed on the science, they will be more likely to judge scientific issues as scientists do and controversy will go away. The facts are assumed to speak for themselves and to be interpreted by all citizens in similar ways. If the public does not accept or recognize these facts, then the failure in transmission is blamed on journalists, "irrational" beliefs, or both. Yet many scientists ignore the possibility that their communication efforts might be part of the problem.2

Perhaps worse, arguments in favor of the popular science model are not very scientific. In fact, they cut against more than 60 years of research in the social sciences, a body of work that suggests citizens prefer to rely on their social values to pick and choose information sources that confirm what they already believe, often making up their minds about a topic in the absence of knowledge.3 A second challenge to the popular science model is that in today's media world, by way of cable TV and the Internet, the public has greater access to quality information about science than at any time in history, yet public knowledge of science remains low. The reason is that a small audience remains attentive to science coverage, but the broader public literally tunes out, preferring other media content.

Given these realities, scientists must learn to focus on presenting, or "framing," their messages in ways that connect with diverse audiences. This means remaining true to the underlying science, but drawing on research to tailor messages in ways that make them personally relevant and meaningful to different publics. For example, when scientists are speaking to a group of people who think about the world primarily in economic terms, they should emphasize the economic relevance of science - such as, in the case of embryonic stem cell research, pointing out that expanded government funding would make the United States, or a particular state, more economically competitive.

The stakes are high. If across the media, scientists and their organizations are not effective in getting their messages across, then others will be. One of the reasons why a coordinated response to the Intelligent Design movement was slow to develop was that there was not enough appreciation among evolutionists for strategic communication. The Discovery Institute, through careful crafting and targeting of their message, created a public perception wedge, casting intelligent design as the "middle way," the scientific compromise between teaching "atheistic evolution" and constitutionally unacceptable biblical doctrine.

In political coverage, at the opinion pages, in television advertising, and at the cable news shows, if scientists don't evolve in their strategies, they will essentially be waving a white flag, surrendering their important role as communicators.


The earliest formal work on framing traces back 25 years to research by the cognitive psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. In experiments examining risk judgments and consumer choices rather than content itself, the two psychologists discovered that the different ways in which a message is presented or framed can result in very different responses. They concluded in their Nobel Prize winning research that "perception is reference-dependent."4

Over the past two decades, research in the fields of political communication and sociology has added to previous work on framing to explain how media portrayals in interaction with cultural forces shape public views. In this research, frames are identified as being used by audiences as "interpretative schema" to make sense of and discuss an issue, by journalists to craft interesting and appealing news reports, and by policymakers to define policy options and reach decisions.5

In each of these contexts, frames simplify complex issues by lending greater importance to certain considerations and arguments over others. In the process, framing helps communicate why an issue might be a problem, who or what might be responsible, and what should be done.6 7

Stem Cell Research. Among science issues discussed over the past five years, only climate change has received more news attention than the stem cell debate. Yet despite the availability of information on the topic, public knowledge of both the policy and scientific issues involved in the debate remains very low. In place of knowledge, the public has relied heavily on their social values in combination with the most readily available interpretations featured in the media.

Opponents of expanded funding have emphasized the "morality/ethics" frame, arguing it is morally wrong to destroy embryos, since they constitute human life, countering the scientific moral argument that more research could lead to important cures. In targeted messages and news reports, the latent meanings of "morality/ethics" and "social progress" are communicated in short hand by several different kinds of frame devices, including metaphors such as "scientists are playing God," or "scientists racing to find a cure"; comparisons to historical exemplars such as the Holocaust or discovering the cure for polio; and catchphrases such as "crossing an important moral boundary," "experiments on young humans," or "it is pro-life to be pro-research."

Advocates for expanded funding have also emphasized the "economic competitiveness" frame, arguing that current limits on federal dollars would catalyze an overseas "brain drain" of top scientific talent, or similarly, that funding for stem cell research at the local level would boost the economy.8

The importance of how stem cell research is framed is illustrated by two nationally representative surveys taken in early 2001, one sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the second by the National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). The JDRF poll question emphasized the social progress interpretation, and referred to medical research on "extra embryos" that could lead to cures for a long list of diseases. Here, public support for funding registered at 65%. In the NCCB survey, the frame was very different: When asked if they supported using their federal tax dollars for research on "live embryos" that would be "destroyed in their first week of development," 70% of respondents voiced their reservations about funding.

The stem cell debate is largely the rare example in which the scientific community has successfully employed framing. In 2001, research institutions and universities partnered with patient advocacy groups to form the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), which has focused on social progress and economic competitiveness. As a result of CAMR's effective communication strategy, public support for expanded funding has increased considerably, especially among key targeted groups such as Catholics and mainline Protestants.9 But any communication strategy must remain true to scientific uncertainty, and some funding advocates have gone too far in employing the social progress frame, giving the impression that research advances are right around the corner, an interpretation that risks public trust.

Plant Biotechnology. Framing also helps to explain why some scientific innovations are widely accepted in the United States, but opposed in other parts of the world. In the example of plant biotechnology, a small number of environmental and consumer activists are strongly opposed to the technology, but surveys show that the wider public continues to be relatively unaware of the issue, yet generally supportive when asked their opinion.

In part, given no cues otherwise, Americans generally trust scientific agencies and defer to their judgment. Unlike embryonic stem cell research, there has been little debate over plant biotechnology among policy makers, religious figures, and environmental organizations. Consequently, the issue has remained covered mostly as a science or business story. To the wider public, the image of the issue remains predominantly framed in "social progress" terms focused on more nutritious and hardier crops for the developing world, and in terms of "economic competitiveness," with an emphasis on promoting American agricultural products abroad.10

In several European countries, however, surveys show strong public opposition. There, elected officials and advocacy groups are divided about plant biotech, and opponents have framed the issue as a Pandora's box of unknown risks, and as a matter of public accountability, with an emphasis on the undue influence of big biotech. Apart from these cues, the technology also triggers strongly held worldviews, including feelings of anti-Americanism (and thereby opposition to US biotech products), and a cultural sense that food has an intrinsic value that should remain beyond the reach of science and corporations.11

In political coverage, at the opinion pages, in television advertising, and at the cable news shows, if scientists don't evolve in their strategies, they will essentially be waving a white flag, surrendering their important role as communicators.

Nanotechnology. This field, too, raises strong debate and has left the larger European public somewhat divided. Opponents of nanotechnology have framed it as the "asbestos of tomorrow," a phrase that appeared in the European press for the first time last year. This phrase directly takes advantage of how framing works: It evokes an underlying schema, largely leftover from regulatory mishaps surrounding the cancer-causing flame retardant. The phrase also triggers the Pandora's Box frame, instantly communicating the unintended and unpredictable outcomes of the new technology.

But European companies have learned valuable lessons from the case of plant biotechnology, and have become more proactive in framing this emerging field. They now consistently frame new product releases around "nano is nature," portraying innovation as being in harmony with what already exists. For example, Henkel Deutschland released their Nanit® Active dental sealant which the marketing materials liken to a layer of grass that protects the underlying topsoil. Similarly, catalog retailers market products with the slogan "high tech inspired by nature."

In the United States, scientists, corporations, and citizens alike are still largely oblivious to the potential public opinion battles that may be looming on the nanotech horizon. This is in part due to the fact that media coverage has been dominated by science and business writers and focused on social benefits and economic development. As a result, those respondents who are aware of the issue continue to be the most enthusiastic, as recent surveys show.

Yet several indicators of a possible frame shift have already appeared. In early 2006, the "asbestos of tomorrow" frame device from Europe was used by business writer Barnaby Feder in an article at The New York Times heralding "Technology's future: A look at the dark side." Even more revealing, a story by science writer Rick Weiss in The Washington Post, originally titled "Nanotech raises worker-safety questions," was trumpeted with the new headline: "Nanotech workers are lab rats in experiment with no controls," when syndicated at Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader. This last example demonstrates the ability of editors across various levels of media to take the same news content but apply very different frame devices, ultimately altering audience interpretations.12


Despite what critics of our suggestions argue, framing does not mean engaging in false spin, as many opponents of science have done in the past. What may have led to this misperception is that several examples of highly effective messaging have originated from groups or individuals with special interests. While the content of some of these messages such as Greenpeace's "Frankenfood" is debatable, these messages have been more effective in reaching key audiences than many efforts that originated from the scientific community.

Some critics have also argued that scientists should stick to research and let media relations officers and science writers worry about translating the implications of that research. They are right: In an ideal world that's exactly what should happen. Yet in reality, scientists will be the key spokespeople. They are the individuals who will be giving the interviews, or writing popular books, articles, or blogs. They will testify before Congress and address local community groups. Perhaps even more importantly, as senior decision-makers, many scientists are ultimately responsible for setting communication policy at scientific institutions, agencies, and organizations. These leaders need to understand how research can and should inform public communication on all issues.

Despite what critics of our suggestions argue, framing does not mean engaging in false spin, as many opponents of science have done in the past.

Moreover, in our experience, we find that even some science communication professionals still cling to the false assumptions of the popular science model, assuming that the facts will speak for themselves and will win out, with no attention to the way the facts are presented, the media who will communicate them, or the audience who will receive them. Therefore, while our suggestions target scientists, they are also aimed at communication professionals.

Others argue that the antidote to continued communication failures is large-scale investment in "public dialogue" initiatives such as town meetings, deliberative forums, and science cafes. Deliberative forums generate conversations among highly engaged citizens and activists, and allow scientific organizations and government officials to tap concerns early and integrate them into policy.13 But like any other tool, deliberative meetings have obvious limitations. Most importantly, very few people actually participate. Indeed, research shows that at these forums, the citizens who are most likely to attend and speak up are those who are already informed, opinion-intense, and active on an issue.

So what are the lessons for science communication 2.0? Should we throw out all existing tools of outreach and public education? No, not at all! Yet study after study shows that various communication efforts are not working as well as they could, despite clear mandates by most federal funding agencies to include outreach and education components in grant proposals. These failures, unfortunately, are partly due to scientists and their organizations continuing to confuse strategic, goal-directed communication with marketing and public relations.

Some scientists already frame their communications. Consider, for example, E.O. Wilson's Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. In his book, by recasting environmental stewardship as not only a scientific matter, but also one of personal and moral duty, Wilson has generated discussion among a religious audience that might not otherwise pay attention to popular science books.

We suggest that Wilson's efforts at bridging audiences be carried out systematically. On major issues such as climate change, nanotechnology, and the teaching of evolution, science organizations should work with communication researchers to conduct focus groups, surveys, and experiments that explore how diverse audiences come to understand these topics. Based on this research, messages can be tailored to fit with specific types of media outlets and to resonate with the background of their particular audience. In collaboration with national organizations and their institution's communication professionals, individual scientists can incorporate these messages into their media interviews, their talks to various audiences, and their popular writing.

Tailoring communication efforts to fit with publics from different social and educational backgrounds is not an option, it is a necessity. Using communication tools such as framing to help citizens make connections between their everyday lives, their specific values, and the world of science is by no means a magical key to unlocking public appreciation for science, but it is a first step.

1. AAAS News Blog, "Science has a 'serious marketing problem,' says Google founder Larry Page," Feb. 17, 2007. Available online at:
2. B. Wynne, "Misunderstood misunderstanding: social identities and public uptake of science," Pub Understand Sci, 1:281-304, 1992.
3. S.L. Popkin, The Reasoning Voter, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
4. D. Kahneman, "Maps of bounded rationality: a perspective on intuitive judgment and choice," In: Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 2002, T. Frängsmyr (Ed.), Stockholm: Nobel Foundation, 2003(pp. 449-89).
5. D.A. Scheufele, "Framing as a theory of media effects," J Comm, 49:103-22, 1999.
6. W.A. Gamson, A. Modigliani, "Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear power: A constructionist approach," Am J Sociol, 95:1-37, 1989.
7. M.C. Nisbet, B.V. Lewenstein, "Biotechnology and the American media: the policy process and the elite press, 1970 to 1999," Science Comm, 23:359-91, 2002.
8. M.C. Nisbet et al., "Framing science: The stem cell controversy in an age of press/politics," Harvard Intl J Press/Politics, 8:36-70, 2003.
9. M.C. Nisbet, "The competition for worldviews: values, information, and public support for stem cell research," Intl J Pub Opin Res, 17:90-112, 2005.
10. D. Brossard, M.C. Nisbet, "Deference to scientific authority among a low information public: Understanding American views about agricultural biotechnology," Intl J Pub Opin Res, 19:24-52, 2007.
11. D.A. Scheufele, B.V. Lewenstein, "The public and nanotechnology: how citizens make sense of emerging technologies," J Nanoparticle Res, 7:659-67, 2005.
12. D.A. Scheufele, "Messages and heuristics: how audiences form attitudes about emerging technologies," In: Engaging Science: Thoughts, Deeds, Analysis and Action, J. Turney (Ed.), London: The Wellcome Trust (pp. 20-5). Available at:
13. K. Goidel, M.C. Nisbet, "Exploring the roots of public participation in the controversy over stem cell research and cloning," Political Behav, 28:175-92, 2005.


Avatar of: Dr. Raam, Shanthi

Dr. Raam, Shanthi

Posts: 43

October 2, 2007

An excellent article with a strong message to the scientists- Shape up! Train yourselves to be a good communicators!\nIn my opinion, the problem starts very early in our lives. Science (biology, physics, chemistry) taught in schools appear totally irrelevant to the kids because these subjects are not tied into their everyday life as kids. How about having a subject "Health Science" to be taught in schools, making it a compulsory subject to all kids? Principles of Biology, Biophysics, Biochemistry and Bio-engineering can all be introduced step by step tying the basic principles with daily health issues.Children will show interest and learn those subjects only if they see relevance to what is important to them. Well informed children grow up to be informed parents, citizens and leaders of our country.
Avatar of: Steven Dutch

Steven Dutch

Posts: 1

October 2, 2007

The first thing scientists need to do is abandon all talk of tentativeness, paradigms, and social construct when talking to the public about science. This model of science is appropriate in certain circles but I see not a shred of evidence that it has improved public scientific literacy and a great deal of evidence that it has been used by charlatans to dismiss scientific findings or push bogus alternatives. Like it or not, the vast majority of the public thinks in concrete, black and white terms and framing discussions in any other way amounts simply to disregarding all the published literature in psychology. Framing statements in such a way that the public is led to believe there is room for doubt, where no reasonable doubt exists, is in fact misleading.

October 2, 2007

Science must be understood in term of scientific theory, not in terms of PR (public relations, otherwise introduced as "frames").\n\nOne can cite a number of colossal catastrophies for the sciences when governed by "framing". \n\nThe most recent one (featured by Editor-in-Chief of The Scientist Richard Gallagher in July) is the "framing" of Genomics as the vast majority of the human Genome as "Junk DNA" associated with Dr. Ohno (1972) see background and obituary of Junk DNA at \n\nUnfortunately for hundreds of millions of people dying of "Junk DNA diseases" (lethal hereditary illnesses that are, or are likely to be, caused by problems in the 98.7% of the human Genome) the "junk" not only has not been given due diligence, but R&D (and even publication, let alone funding) was effectively denied to those who knew better - for 35 years.\n\nWhile the NIH-led "ENCODE" program (since 2003, first pilot results published 14th of June, 2007) effectively did away with this obsolete "frame", because of the ingrained "Junk DNA mentality" Genomics is still in a "shell shock" (according to Francis Collins) - with one leader of ENCODE betting that over 20% of the human DNA is "junk" - the other betting that less than 20% is "void of function".\n\nAlthough International PostGenetics Society, see became the first organization that formally abandoned this "frame" a year ago (12th of October, 2006) people are still dying of "Junk DNA diseases" - while even the leadership of ENCODE is split on even on a new definition (if any...) for "Gene".\n\nIn the second Century of Genetics after Bateson coined the word "Genetics" in 1906, "PostGenetics" (Genomics beyond ENCODE) would head towards a catastrophy if the obsolete "frame" would be replaced by anything less than scientific theory (that is predictive, and its predictions can be verified by experimentation). \n\nSorry, all the "PR" (more elegantly called "frame") in the World fall short of scientific theory. (Another disaster was "Soviet Science" in which Lisenko/Michurin were given all the power and propaganda outlets by Stalin to "frame" life sciences based on ideology, while the underlying theory was scientifically false).\n\nIs "scientific theory" beyond understanding of the masses?\n\nNonsense.\n\nNobelists usually earn their distinction either for a theory or its support/falsification - while the Nobel Lecture is required to be brief, eloquent and to be understood in essence even by truck drivers.\n\nJust look up some notable Nobel Lectures, and e.g. follow how physics/chemistry did it, when their fundamental axiom (e.g. that the elements are composed of atoms that by axiom can not be split to any smaller entities - and then the atom was found to be splitting).\n\nOur time is particularly brilliant AND dangerous.\n\nGenomics ("Post-ENCODE") has been eying at the $1,000 full genome sequencing - and it has been announced literally yesterday that the $100 full genome sequencing is realistic based on a just issued new technology. The implications are beyond the boundaries of a blog.\n\nHowever, this "PostModern" Age of Genomics (PostGenetics) can be rather easily derailed by some powerful "framing" costing (again) billions of dollars mis-spent, and leaving hundreds of millions dying.\n\nInternational PostGenetics Society (after its highly successful "European Inaugural" in 2006) has called *NOT* for "framing" - but for the First World Congress of PostGenetics; where "framing" is disallowed. \n\nWhy a meeting, instead of "peer-reviewed papers"?\n\nThere is no "peer-review", when "peers" are split in the middle. \n\nPleeeese, forget about "framing". Serious scientists, pleeeese come forward with any/all scientific theories for "Post-ENCODE Genomics", that are predictive and thus can be experimentally supported, or led towards better scientific theory. \n\n"Survival of the fittest scientific theory" would suffer an enormous blow if we let "framing" win. Think of it: What if you die a dreadful death of some "Junk DNA disease" if someone "frames" Genomics wrong, again?\n\nDr. Ohno is no longer alive - can and will not be held personally responsible for a mistaken framing.\n\nThose who are alive - we are responsible. Those who divert governance of science from scientific theories to "frames" will assume personal liability of historical proportions.\n\
Avatar of: simon


Posts: 1

October 2, 2007

You can't forget about framing. "Forget about framing" is itself framing. Communication without frames is simply impossible. The frame can be blatant or subtle and it probably influences the communication more if it is subtle, but it is always there.\n\nIt's not that hard to understand. \n\nThe command "Jump!" has an entirely different meaning if you are standing next to a cliff or standing on a trampoline. Same message, different frame.\n\nIf you foget about the frame, your attempted communication may have unexpected results.
Avatar of: Dr. Ed

Dr. Ed

Posts: 1

October 3, 2007

Framing is important. However, in addition to having scientific leaders learn to frame correctly, it is important to train our students about the importance of being advocates and persuaders for their data. They need to know, ASAP, that the popular science model is no more.\n\nIn our recent methods text, we say: "Although you may have heard that the data speak for themselves, this isn't true. It is the researcher's (and others') explanations that speak for the data."\n\nI wonder how many texts present a similar message?

October 3, 2007

simon say:\n\n--\nYou can't forget about framing. "Forget about framing" is itself framing. Communication without frames is simply impossible...\nIf you foget about the frame, your attempted communication may have unexpected results.\n--\n\n"Framing" is not precise enough. Scientists accept "frame of reference" - but IMHO should not permit "framing" INSTEAD OF Scientific Theory. \n\nCourts (and innocent people) don't like "framing" and one should never buy a frame INSTEAD OF a painting. \n\nIn science communication, if there is any kind of a frame, but no scientific theory in it, the frame should never be bought. \n\nMy request is to "forget about GIVING POWER to framing". The priority (and power) must come from scientific theory. \n\nIf there is a pretty frame in addition to the contents, sure it can be a corollary help, e.g. to sell a picture and/or fit it into an environment easier.\n\nScience is not about "framing". It is about "scientific theory" (true understanding, not hard-sell propaganda). If we get it upside down, it is detrimental to our science leadership and the "framers" become responsible for short-selling science/scientists.\n\nBack to the 35 years of "framing Genomics" that 98.7% of the human DNA was "Junk"...\n\

October 5, 2007

I would suggest that the arguments indicating that there is a considerable gap between the general public and the successes of science are not a blunder. Each side bears the brunt of misinterpretation. Basically there is level confusion in most of the communications and there is no greater cause of insanity than confusion of levels. How then is it possible for one side to be "right"? How could scientists correct 'misinterpretations' if an individual interprets what he sees based upon his belief system? Have they forgotten the complementarity of Light? Have they forgotten about the spurious 'objectivity' of the Heisenberg Principle? Have they forgotten the basic tenets of Bohr in his masterful interpretation of Schroedinger's mathematics? Have they forgotten that Einstein did not disparage what everyone knew, but simply took it to another level?\nI trust humility is still a major part of the Scientific Quest.
Avatar of: David Winickoff

David Winickoff

Posts: 1

October 9, 2007

I echo the last contributor's point about humility in the presentation of what we know through science, to combat the tendency to misrepresent scientific knowledge. (Pace Steven Dutch -- "The first thing scientists need to do is abandon all talk of tentativeness, paradigms, and social construct when talking to the public about science").\n\nNisbet's article is well taken as a pragmatic call to arms for more effective science communication against the politically ascendant forces of fundamentalism in belief and action (an important battle to wage). But striking a good balance between conveying nuance and theme shoudl not start by doing, as Steven Ducth would have us do, promote a dangerous fundamentalism of another kind \n\nThere are both epistemic and strategic grounds for this. The legitimacy and power of scientific theory and knowledge depends on its inherent skepticism towards fundamental belief of any kind, and to its attendance to clearly articulated bodies of empirical work and evidence, and also its openness to revision. Frames must not cover up known unknowns and uncertainties, even in service of combating the egregious forms of fundamentalism ascendant today.\n\nBroadly agreed scientific content can be articulated in public fora more forcefully, but the scientific endeavor as a whole must not be framed as a positivist practice of Truth-generation.\n\nInstead, policy positions should be based on "best knowledge," knowledge that has been tested and confirmed, knowledge that is broadly accepted in respected epistemic communities. "Science" as traditionally understood is crucial for this, but should not be flown under flags that exaggerate certainty -- this only gives the other side more ammunition in the long term. \n\nScience has been as successful as it has been, it could be argued, precisely because of the persuasive aspects of building knowledge through skepticism, testing, openness, debate, and free inquiry -- in short, rules of justification for belief that are broadly acceptable.\n\n
Avatar of: Dr Paul Trotman

Dr Paul Trotman

Posts: 1

October 11, 2007

Hi,\nI read your article with interest. I come from a science background (medicine) and I also work in the media, developing, writing & producing science & medical TV. \n\nIt's not just the public who aren't very interested in science, it's also the media, especially television. We've been relatively successful at selling science and medical shows to the likes of Discovery and local broadcasters. But it's hard. Why? Because the needs and expectations of the media and the needs and expectations of science are so different.\n\nRemember that television (even Discovery, now that they get ratings) is about entertainment, and information is NOT entertainment. Emotion, drama and mystery are entertainment and it's the producer's job to find them... or invent them if they're not there. Science might be interesting to you and I, but to a commissioning editor, if it's not got one of the above, they're not interested. The trick is to find the stories and at the same time remain true to the science. Harder when you come from an arts background and don't quite get science, or if you come from a science background and don't quite get entertainment.\n\nAlso, now that Discovery get ratings, they want more and more viewers because it means that they can charge more for advertising. So they screen more and more populist shows (like American Chopper) because they rate. They just haven't realized yet that they rate with the wrong people.\n\nHappy to email if anyone wants to chat. I'm pault at \n
Avatar of: Al


Posts: 1

October 11, 2007

While the main points of the article are good, the authors' very biased viewpoint shines through like the sun. The very expressions chosen show that they have a very liberal worldview and want to proselytize.\nIn case you missed it, here is just one example:\n"For example, when scientists are speaking to a group of people who think about the world primarily in economic terms, they should emphasize the economic relevance of science - such as, in the case of embryonic stem cell research, pointing out that expanded government funding would make the United States, or a particular state, more economically competitive."\nNow, if they really wanted something 'economically competitive', then adult stem cells would be the topic as there are proven cures, which people pay good money for. The authors missed out on the fact that private money, a sure sign of economic viability, is not flowing into the embryonic research.\nTheir paper is as much a study on 'selling' their view as they are asking scientists to do.
Avatar of: Bart Janssen

Bart Janssen

Posts: 5

October 29, 2007

And the title of my post is a perfect example.\n\nFraming is about presenting the facts in a way that will cause the recipient to form the desired opinion.\n\nFraming is not about telling the truth as honestly and as openly as it can be told and allowing the recipient to form their own opinion. And some folks would therefore describe framing as a form of lying.\n\nOf course all communication is dependent on the way the information is presented. But as scientists our job is not to present the information in the way we think it should be understood. Our job is to present the information clearly and honestly. To answer questions openly and freely.\n\nAnd when opponents of my science use framing, or simply lies, to try and sway people, then my job is to expose those lies for what they are.\n\nPersonally I think "framing" science is a very dangerous proposition and one I personally will not persue.\n\ncheers\n\n\n
Avatar of: Erich Feldmeier

Erich Feldmeier

Posts: 2

October 30, 2007

Dear Sirs,\n\nthank you for your excellent article.\nMost probably nobody of The Scientist readers would disagree that\nscience, scientists & scientific thinking should have a substantial better anchorage in society\nand especially, that 'we' get much more effectiveness & performance for\nscientific issues in general.\nI suppose the How-To to realize that anchorage is distinctly disputed.\n\nTo me the dilemma seems to be that individuality & personality of people\nis not accepted as such. We are tickled to negate these substantial differences.\n\n\n\nHistorically, we know very well that the supposed 'easy change' of\n'The Others' in habits, feeling and thinking is nearly impossible.\nIn milleniums 'we' did not have any progress in our understanding that 'The Others'\nwill understand facts as we do:\n>>The facts are assumed to speak for themselves and to be interpreted by all citizens in similar ways>>\n\n\n\nAll our (game-'theoretical') decisions we make in daily practice are substantially dependent on our pre-knowledge,-education and perception.\n\n\n\nSo we will not get any progress in science, mankind, humanism or whatsoever sector of our society\nif we expect that a 'scientists personality' will make a good, effective or at least efficient job\nin communication, business admin, marketing, etc.\nA complete senseless spending of time is a bootlicking understatement.\nIn general scientists will fail miserably, as do 'The Others' in science, of course.\nHere is one of the ever most disputed article in 'The Atlantic':\n\n\nInstead of brainwashing scientists and urging them to do jobs in which they are definitely doomed to failure,\nwe urgently have to establish translators and 'specialists for really interdisciplinary work' on a grand scale:\n\n\n\nThank you for your attention.\n\nwith innovative regards,\nEF\n
Avatar of: Karel Petrak

Karel Petrak

Posts: 1

October 31, 2007

Matthew C. Nisbet & Dietram A. Scheufele state that "The facts never speak for themselves, which is why scientists need to "frame" their messages to the public."\n\nI disagree strongly! \nHere is why. \n- science is a fact-based activity, so the facts must truthfully speak out \n- we need to state clearly what is the purpose of "messages to the public", and develop the message accordingly. Principally, the scientist must find ways of EXPLAINING the issue so that it is understandable, and can be comprehended by the audience that is being addressed. If he cannot, he himself likely does not understand the issues well enough! \n\n- the TRUTH must be upper-most in the scientist's mind; adjusting, modifying, "framing" facts is unethical and cannot be tolerated anywhere, and especially in science!\n\n- "framing" of science would come close to the status of "truth in advertising" - an elusive, non-existent activity \n- if "framing" here, as in communication theory, and sociology, refers to a process of selective control over the individual's perception of media, public, or private communication, then I do not support it (communication theory) \n\n- if however, "framing" refers to "mental structures that are used to facilitate the thinking process" ( (psychology)) then I am all for it . But then again this is nothing new, and goes back to my first point - it is up to the scientist to get the facts, and the truth across in an understandable fashion\n\n- if by "framing" the authors imply that the "facts" needs to be used or not used, and modified as needed to achieve not understanding but some particular purpose, such as raising money, and in this way the facts must be "framed" to provide particular "spin" then it is wrong, and I am strongly against it.\n\nAnd since according to Messrs Nisbet & Scheufele "The facts never speak for themselves, which is why scientists need to "frame" their messages to the public.", does it mean that all grant applications should be "framed"? \nAn example of what "framing" science leads to when used for commercial purposes (incidentally, the test of the attached is in conflict with the current FDA regulations) can be seen at \n\nPlease, read it, it is worth it, as a warning.\n\n\n
Avatar of: Erich Feldmeier

Erich Feldmeier

Posts: 2

November 6, 2007

To Karel Petrak et al.\n'- science is a fact-based activity, so the facts must truthfully speak out'\n\nEven if 'we' regret it, people do never get the same message of the facts.\nAs cited in my last comment, Steven Pinker & Mahzarin Banaji, Lauren Slater & Cordelia Fine show some rational reasons why - from the psychological and behavioral view;\nHere's another strong scientifically based statement that it is the gossip & showmaster-factor that counts.\n\nresp.\n\nAgain, most of the scientists are dramatically ineffective & inefficient in marketing. Let them do their job - without urging them to start gossiping.\n\nEF

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