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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: [email protected].
    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 NK 1998 Using newspapers as effective teaching tools ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills Bloomington, IN
2. Buckley L 2010 What the news media need from scientists Integr Environ Assess Manag 6 499 501 10.1002/ieam.79 20821711 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ieam.79
3. Caumont A 2013 12 trends shaping digital news Pew Research Center [Online.] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/16/12-trends-shaping-digital-news/
4. de Semir V 1996 What is newsworthy? Lancet 347 1163 1166 10.1016/S0140-6736(96)90614-5 8609754 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(96)90614-5
5. Dornan C 1990 Some problems in conceptualizing the issue of “science and the media” Crit Stud Media Comm 7 48 71 10.1080/15295039009360163 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15295039009360163
6. Jarman R, McClune B 2007 Developing scientific literacy: using news media in the classroom McGraw-Hill New York, NY
7. Maron BJ 2008 Medical data, the media, and distortion of the facts in the Internet era Am J Cardiol 101 890 891 10.1016/j.amjcard.2007.10.057 18328860 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amjcard.2007.10.057
8. Nisbet MC, Scheufele DA, Shanahan J, Moy P, Brossard D, Lewenstein BV 2002 Knowledge, reservations, or promise? A media effects model for public perceptions of science and technology Comm Res 29 584 608 10.1177/009365002236196 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/009365002236196
9. Pew Research Center 2010 Understanding 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 Center 2014 State of the news media 2014: overview [Online.] http://www.journalism.org/files/2014/03/Overview.pdf
11. Pew Research Center 2015 Public 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 J 2007 Media-based learning science in informal environments National Research Council [Online.] http://www.rockman.com/publications/articles/MediaBasedLearningScience.pdf
13. Stryker JE 2002 Reporting medical information: effects of press releases and newsworthiness on medical journal articles’ visibility in the news media Prev Med 35 519 530 10.1006/pmed.2002.1102 12431901 http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/pmed.2002.1102
14. Sumner P, et al 2014 The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study B M J 349 g7015 10.1136/bmj.g7015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7015

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2016-03-01
2019-08-22

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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