Record of the Week (Week of 16 June 2014)

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This weeks round up includes articles on energy, fracking, social media, science communication and more.


The Atlantic – Coal’s Share of Energy Consumption at Highest Level Since 1970

Climate Central –

The Guardian – UK government gives green light to offshore windfarm

Manchester Policy Blogs (Science & Technology) – Wasting the biomass opportunity


The Guardian –


The Guardian – Fukushima operator struggles to build ice wall to contain radioactive water

Risk Analysis – Managing the Fukushima Challenge


Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience blog – A new approach to governing GM crops? Global lessons from the rising powers


LSE Impact blog – There are no blueprints for policy impact, but you can improve your chances by being flexible and iterative


Retraction Watch – “Barriers to retraction may impede correction of the literature:” New study


The Guardian (Impact of Research Hub) – ‘DIY labs offer an agile alternative to university-based research’

LSE Impact blog – Surely there’s more to science than money? Economic determinism fails to capture science’s practical social benefit.


Cultural Cognition Project blog – External validity of climate-science-communication studies: ruminations part 1

Dot Earth blog – Exploring Academia’s Role in Charting Paths to a ‘Good’ Anthropocene

Talking Climate – The language that leaves people behind


The Guardian (Film blog) – How Twitter killed the official movie website


Work in Progress blog – Why does John get the STEM job rather than Jennifer? The Implicit Gender Biases of Scientists


Fast Co. Design – The Curious History of the World Cup Soccer Ball

New York Times – The World’s Ball


BPS Research Digest – Link feast (psychology and neuroscience links from the past week)

The Bubble Chamber – Weekly Roundup

LSE Impact blog – Impact Round-Up 21st June: Universities as big business, coding the future, and openings in knowledge production.

National Geographic (Not Exactly Rocket Science) – I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (21 June 2014)

Retraction Watch – Weekend reads: Scientific fraudster given royal honor; the Retraction Watch theme song!

Savage Minds – Around the Web Digest: Week of June 15

Somatosphere – In the Journals, June 2014 – Part I


Record of the Week (Week of 31 March 2014)

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Another dose of science, technology and society (STS) literature with extended section on the latest IPCC climate change report.

(Apologies for the formatting. It looks all fine in the edit post window but the final is a bit off. Not sure why.)


UK Parliamentary Science & Technology Committee – Eighth Report – Communicating climate science Volume 1, Volume 2, PDF

Talk Climate – ‘Must try harder’ on climate change communication

Climate Change Consortium of Wales – Communicating climate science report released


Ars Technica – New IPCC report on climate change focuses on managing risks

Damian Carrington’s Environment blog – Climate change action is the best insurance policy in world history

NPR – Researchers Detail How Climate Change Will Alter Our Lives [with AUDIO]

New York Times –  Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come

New York Times ‘Dot Earth’ blog –

New Scientist –

The Washington Post – U.N. climate panel: Governments, businesses need to take action now against growing risks [VIDEO]

BBC News –

The Guardian – Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind – IPCC report

Dot Earth blog – Climate Panel Sees Global Warming Impacts on All Continents, Worse to Come

Climate Desk – If This Terrifying Report Doesn’t Wake You Up to the Realities of What We’re Doing to This Planet, What Will?

Climate Central – Climate Change Impacts in Pictures: 8 Stark IPCC Images

CLIMATE CHANGE – after IPCC report

The Breakthrough Institutes ‘The Public Square’- What Role for Experts in the Climate Debate? Balancing Trust, Advocacy, and Social Change

The Lancet – Climate change and health: on the latest IPCC report

Science Media Centre (UK) – expert reaction to IPCC AR5 WG2

British Ecological Society (BES) blog – Climate Change: The Scientific View

Nature – Brace for impacts

Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media – Major News Outlets: Somber Reporting on ‘Bleak’ IPCC Study

Inside Climate News – Climate Impacts Are Going to Hit the Developing World Hardest, IPCC Says

Dot Earth blog – U.N. Climate Report Authors Answer 11 Basic Questions

Climate Desk – Frame Climate Change as a Food Issue, Experts Say


Globe and Mail – Oil-sands link to health concerns, report says


Globe and Mail – Exxon Mobil agrees to share more data on fracking risks

Inside Climate News – Toxic Emission Spikes at Fracking Sites Are Rarely Monitored, Study Finds

Climate Central – Mind the Fracking Data Gap, Study Says

Somatosphere – Petri Dish
Compass Blogs – Finding Your Voice
Science Media Centre (UK) – Media debates on science: delicately balanced
Climate Change Consortium of Wales – Science on a Sphere for Wales
‘Unmuzzdled Science’ blog – A case for Government Science outreach
British Ecological Society blog –
Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC) blog –

Ars Technica – Japan’s whaling “not for scientific purposes,” must cease

Dot Earth – A Whale of an International Court Ruling Against Japan


The Bubble Chamber – Weekly roundup

Don’t Get Caught – The weekend read

Ed Yong’s ‘Not Exactly Rocket Science’ blog – I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (05 April 2014)

The Lancet – This week in Medicine April 5-11 2014

LSE Impact blog – Impact Round-Up 5th April: Open access mandates, academic freedom, and homo academicus.

Nieman Journalism Lab – This Week in Review: Local news innovation and Thunderdome, and Facebook’s brand clampdown

Retraction Watch – Weekend reads: Former ORI director speaks out; Is peer review broken?

Savage Minds – Around the Web Digest: Week of May 30

Sociological Images – This month in socimages (March 2014)

Speakers of Science blog – Reads of the Week April 4, 2014 – bees, science journalism and beat box rhythms!


**Last updated 7 April 2014**

Future of ‘Fake Meat’ will depend on Scientists Communicating

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On 22 June 2012, The Guardian published a fascinating article about the race to develop fake meat, entitled “Fake meat: is science fiction on the verge of becoming fact?

The article tells a story of two scientists on opposite sides of the world who are leading the race to create the so-called ‘fake meat’.

There is Professor Patrick Brown is a tenured Stanford University molecular biologist. He has been working for the past two years on the creation of meat and dairy products. The San Francisco based researcher is leading the way on an approach that uses plant-based material in order to create a meat reproduction.

The alternative approach is to actually grow animal muscle tissue in a factory without the animals. It is being developed in Europe. Building on a body of past research, Dr. Mark Post from the University of Maastricht is spearheading this initiative.

Without retelling the entire article,  it will suffice to say that there is a  potential for the science to succeed in achieving it’s aims thereby leading to what would be potentially described as a ‘revolution’ of one sorts or another.

As recently as February 2012, the two researchers gave a joint presentation at the AAAS conference in Vancouver. As is often the case with competing scientists at the forefront of their research in the same area of research, there is a tension between the pair. Nevertheless, Dr. Post concedes that Prof. Brown may win the race, but leaves a suggestion that he will have trouble selling the idea.

He is a genius, but he has a personality issue. He is very defensive. He is much smarter than I am, but he is not going to get this across to the public. He needs a PR adviser.

The foregoing quote caught my eye.

The relationship between science and society is in large part mediated by communication. It is often argued that scientists do not possess the greatest communication skills. Variable anecdotal and academic evidence suggests this to be true in a lot of cases. In the above quote Dr. Post paints Prof. Brown to be lacking the personality to be able to get his message to the public and would require PR assistance.  Here one scientist (Dr. Post), whose communication skills we don’t know about, accuses another scientist (Prof. Brown) of lacking in them.

Communication of scientific research is especially important when research with societal implications of risk is in focus. It is therefore necessary to avoid the pitfalls (such as assuming that ‘the publics’ are ’empty vessels’ waiting to be filled with knowledge; conceptualising the communication process as a way to ‘sell’ science to the publics; attempting to persuade the publics to take one side or the other in scientific debate) in the communication process and openly communicate with the publics about the science, its potentially risks and uncertainties and societal implications without ‘dumbing it down’. Many people are willing to attempt to understand (and some do understand) complexity of  the science and are open to multiple interpretations of societal implications. Consequently, if the approach with ‘fake meat’  will be one of straight up PR and marketing (if it gets to this stage), the public will potentially feel that they are simply being marketed to (For an alternative take on ‘science marketing’ see post here.), which will cement the existing polarization between science and society and reinforce the ‘perceptual gridlock’ (Nisbet & Scheufele, 2009).

Therefore, the future of ‘fake meat’ will be in large part contingent on effective communication by the scientists, who have a plethora of examples in history of good and bad practices, to inform the development and implementation of their communication strategies.


Hanlon, M. (2012). ‘Fake meat: is science fiction on the verge of becoming fact,’ The Guardian (online edition), 22 June 2012.

Nisbet, M.C., Scheufele, D.A. (2009). ‘What’s next for Science Communication? Promising Directions and Lingering Distractions,’ American Journal of Botany 96(10): 1-12. doi:10.3732/ajb.0900041

Red Meat, Death and Research Communication

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On Monday 12 March 2012, researchers from the Harvard Medical School released a study in which linked the consumption of red meat to an increased chance of early death. The study, entitled ‘Red Meat Consumption and Mortality‘ was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It was also accompanied by an editorial entitled ‘Holy Cow! What’s Good for you is Good for Our Planet‘.

The researchers tracked 37698 men for 22 years and 83698 women for 28 years. All the participants were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer when tracking commenced. The diets of the participants were evaluated through questionnaires every four years. The subjects who consumed a card-deck-sized serving of unprocessed red meat each day on average saw a 13 percent higher risk of dying than those who did not consume red meat with the same frequency.

The study has garnered a considerable amount of attention. At the time of initial writing (around 21:00 on the evening of Tuesday 13 March 2012), there were 211 stories related articles that can be accessed on Google News. Another check around 23:00 on the evening of Tuesday 13 March 2012, showed that there were 231 related stories. Here are some examples of the headlines from some of the media outlets across:

United Kingdom

BBC news – ‘Red meat increases death, cancer and heart risk, says study

The Guardian – ‘Eating red meat raises ‘substantially’ risk of cancer or heart disease death

The Independent – ‘Red meat increases risk of early death, says study

The Telegraph – ‘Red meat is blamed for one in 10 early deaths

Daily Mail – ‘Eating red meat regularly ‘dramatically increases the risk of death from heart disease’ ‘

The Sun – ‘Read meat ‘kills’ Risk of death for regular eaters’goes up 13%’

United States of America

The LA Times – ‘All red meat is bad for you, new study says

ABC News – ‘Red Meat Tied to Increased Mortality Risk

MSNBC – ‘Daily serving of red meat raises risk of cancer, heart disease

CBS News – ‘Study: Red meat raises risk of dying, risk higher with processed meats

Harvard Magazine – ‘Don’t Pass the Bacon

New York Daily News – ‘Red meat boosts risk of dying young: study; Just one portion of processed meat boosts death risk by 20%

Fox News – ‘Red meat linked to premature death, research finds


CBC – ‘Red meat eaten daily raises early death risk

Globe and Mail – ‘Red meat increases risk of death from cancer

Toronto Star – ‘Red meat linked to higher risk of premature death: Harvard study

Montreal Gazette – ‘Red meat linked to higher risk of premature death


The Sydney Morning Herald – ‘Huge study shows red meat boosts risk of dying young

Victor Harbor Times – ‘Love affair with flesh hits a snag as study links red meat to risk of death


Time – ‘Just How Unhealthy Is That Steak? The Deadly Dangers of Eating Red Meat

Reuters – ‘More support for passing on the red meat

CNN International – ‘Study: Too much red meat may shorten lifespan

Science Daily – ‘Red Meat Consumption Linked to Increased Risk of Total, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality

Some Notes

Media outlets exist within a context that is structured by the competition for public’s attention. Being constantly bombarded by a variety of stimuli, public attention can be fleeting and therefore is extremely valuable. Consequently, in order to capture the attention, media outlets must refer to very striking differences (differences from the ‘norm’). A response will only be garnered by a strong stimuli (Neidhardt, 1993).

As Neidhardt (1993), points out, the aforegoing scenario leads to implementation of particular strategies:

1) “…existing Material can become loaded linguistically by ‘the use of intense language’.” (p.343)

2) “…the selection of the material is guided by a preference for strongly deviating cases.” (p.343)

Case in point, the aforementioned study.


Neidhardt, F. (1993). ‘The Public as a Communication System’ Public Understand. Sci. 2, 339-350. doi: 10.1088/0963-6625/2/4/004

Pan, A., Sun, Q., Bernstein, A.M., Schulze, M.B., Manson, J.E., Stampfer, M.J., Willett, W.C., Hu, F.B. (2012). Red Meat Consumption and Mortality’ Arch Intern Med.   doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287