Science News & Information:The Internet ChallengePrepared for “Covering Science in Cyberspace”Knight New Media Center, March 2007John B. HorriganAssociate Director for Research
Structure of talk • Things that might scare providers of science news and information • Things that might buck them up • A few puzzlers from the study • The challenges it presents to providers of science news & information
Not-so-scary stuff • Science news consumers are careful to check scientific information & claims • Real opportunities to use online information to improve people’s attitudes about science & society.
What do people do when they get science information online? • Fact-checking: • 62%: use other online information for this • 54%: use an offline source for fact-checking • 54%: turn to original source to verify information • Range of research: • 70%: look up meaning of scientific term or concept • 65%: learn more about a science story of discovery first heard of offline • 55%: complete science school assignment (self or child) • 52%: check accuracy of fact or statistic
Attitudes toward science • Positive correlations between use of science resources online and self-reported: • Understanding of science • Knowledge of scientific discoveries • As well as greater likelihood of agreeing with: • Statements about importance of science to a strong society • The role of scientific research in improving quality of life
Puzzlers • Convenience • 71% of internet users say the convenience of the internet is why they turn to the internet for science information • 13% say it is because science information online is more reliable than other sources • Happenstance • 65% of internet users encounter science news when they’ve gone online with another purpose in mind • This compares with 36% of internet users who say this about political news & information
Challenges • User-generated content • Important part of online commons • Tends to increase velocity of information • Expert chatter • Amateur bloviation • Original reporting & generation of reliable content • Neither can exist without the other • Suggest successful science news & information providers will be aggregators, not just content provider.