Problem Explored: Media Coverage of Science Identifies Problems — and Solutions

A new brochure from the Annenberg Science Media Monitor, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, analyzes how the news media have presented different narratives about science, from discovery to retractions, from identifying problems in research to “problem explored” — that is, how science seeks solutions or is self-correcting.

From April 2012 to April 2018, the monitor identified 99 print and online pieces dealing with crisis and self-correction. Those pieces were found in the LexisNexis and Factiva databases in a search for headline terms such as “crisis,” “broken,” “failure,” “fraud,” “peer review,” “problem,” “replication,” “retraction,” “scandal” or “self-correction” with the word “science.” Of those pieces, 51% cited literature relevant to the claim that science is broken or in crisis, 35% were written by a scientist, and 41% mentioned solutions to problems or evidence of self-correction – what the media monitor labels problem explored.

The media monitor found that the change over time was noteworthy – while more recent pieces referenced problems in science (from 5 in 2012-13 to 24 in 2017-18), a higher proportion also mentioned solutions or self-correction (from 40% in 2012-13 to 83% in 2017-18).

The media monitor looks at the “discovery narrative” as used by four major news outlets in reporting on science. And the monitor also examines three prominent examples of retracted work, by Oona Lönnstedt and Peter Eklöv on the consumption of plastic by fish; Brian Wansink on human eating behavior; and Piero Anversa on cardiac stem cell therapy.

The Annenberg Science Media Monitor brochure was disseminated in February 2020 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Seattle. Click on any of the images below to download the pages.

Annenberg Science Media Monitor Feb. 2020, page 1Annenberg Science Media Monitor Feb. 2020, page 2Annenberg Science Media Monitor Feb. 2020, page 3

The Science Media Monitor is supported by a grant from the Rita Allen Foundation.

Other reports from the Annenberg Science Media Monitor include:

The reports are available at www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/science-media-monitor/.