Credibility of Science Communication - An Exploratory Study of Press Releases in Astronomy

Lars Holm Nielsen
Nanna Torpe Jørgensen
Kim Jantzen
Sanne Bjerg

Supervisor:
Prof., D.Sc. Birgitte Munch-Petersen

External Supervisor:
Lars Lindberg Christensen, ESA/Hubble

2 January 2006

Abstract

Twelve qualitative open-ended in-depth interviews with public information officers from large governmental scientific institutions as well as scientists and journalist were conducted in November 2005. An analysis of the interviews is carried out, to study how far science communicators in the name of science communication can, or should, push, without damaging the individual, and thus also the collective credibility, of the science communication community and the involved institutions. Overall the study suggests that a credibility problem for astronomical press releases does not exist. However the interviews indicated a problem within the scientific community, where some lack of understanding and respect among the actors is found. All actors though, showed great attention and concern for communicating science in a credible way. A code of conduct presenting guidelines for how to minimize hype in press releases is presented.

 

Keywords : credibility, hype, science communication, astronomy, visibility and press releases.