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Creating Critical Consumers of Health and Science News: Teaching Science to the Non-Scientist Using Newsworthy Topics in the Life Sciences

    Authors: Raymond W. Coderre1, Kristen A. Uekermann1, Youngeun Choi1, William J. Anderson1,*
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 01 March 2016
    • ©2016 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://jmbe.asm.org
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University, 7 Divinity Avenue, Bauer 204, Cambridge, MA 02138. Phone: 617-495-0950. Fax: 617-496-9679. E-mail: william_anderson@harvard.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2016 vol. 17 no. 1 107-109. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.1023
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    Abstract:

    Scientists constantly make groundbreaking discoveries, some of which receive attention from the press. We designed a course intended for a lay audience that provides the scientific background to appreciate these reports more fully. We discuss three topics in the life sciences: stem cells, cancer, and infectious disease. The course is structured to blend relevant scientific background and evaluation of primary literature with the coverage of these advances by the media and popular press. In short, lectures emphasize exposure to basic biological concepts and tools as a means of informing understanding of prominent biological questions of public interest. The overall goal of the course is not only to expose students to the media’s coverage of scientific progress, but also to hone their critical thinking skills to distinguish hope from hype.

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References & Citations

1. Aiex NK1998Using newspapers as effective teaching toolsERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication SkillsBloomington, IN
2. Buckley L2010What the news media need from scientistsIntegr Environ Assess Manag649950110.1002/ieam.7920821711 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ieam.79
3. Caumont A201312 trends shaping digital newsPew Research Center[Online.] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/16/12-trends-shaping-digital-news/
4. de Semir V1996What is newsworthy?Lancet3471163116610.1016/S0140-6736(96)90614-58609754 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(96)90614-5
5. Dornan C1990Some problems in conceptualizing the issue of “science and the media”Crit Stud Media Comm7487110.1080/15295039009360163 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15295039009360163
6. Jarman R, McClune B2007Developing scientific literacy: using news media in the classroomMcGraw-HillNew York, NY
7. Maron BJ2008Medical data, the media, and distortion of the facts in the Internet eraAm J Cardiol10189089110.1016/j.amjcard.2007.10.05718328860 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amjcard.2007.10.057
8. Nisbet MC, Scheufele DA, Shanahan J, Moy P, Brossard D, Lewenstein BV2002Knowledge, reservations, or promise? A media effects model for public perceptions of science and technologyComm Res2958460810.1177/009365002236196 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/009365002236196
9. Pew Research Center2010Understanding the participatory news consumer: how internet and cell phone users have turned news into a social experience[Online.] http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP_Understanding_the_Participatory_News_Consumer.pdf
10. Pew Research Center2014State of the news media 2014: overview[Online.] http://www.journalism.org/files/2014/03/Overview.pdf
11. Pew Research Center2015Public and scientists’ views on science and society[Online.] http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2015/01/PI_ScienceandSociety_Report_012915.pdf
12. Rockman S, Bass K, Borland J2007Media-based learning science in informal environmentsNational Research Council[Online.] http://www.rockman.com/publications/articles/MediaBasedLearningScience.pdf
13. Stryker JE2002Reporting medical information: effects of press releases and newsworthiness on medical journal articles’ visibility in the news mediaPrev Med3551953010.1006/pmed.2002.110212431901 http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/pmed.2002.1102
14. Sumner P, et al2014The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational studyB M J349g701510.1136/bmj.g7015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7015
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2016-03-01
2017-11-17

Abstract:

Scientists constantly make groundbreaking discoveries, some of which receive attention from the press. We designed a course intended for a lay audience that provides the scientific background to appreciate these reports more fully. We discuss three topics in the life sciences: stem cells, cancer, and infectious disease. The course is structured to blend relevant scientific background and evaluation of primary literature with the coverage of these advances by the media and popular press. In short, lectures emphasize exposure to basic biological concepts and tools as a means of informing understanding of prominent biological questions of public interest. The overall goal of the course is not only to expose students to the media’s coverage of scientific progress, but also to hone their critical thinking skills to distinguish hope from hype.

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Overall organization of the course.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2016 vol. 17 no. 1 107-109. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.1023
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