This essay by Kathleen H. Jamieson has explored three news narratives about science (quest discovery, counterfeit quest, systemic problem) and recommended ways to increase the extent to which these storylines convey the realities of scientific discovery and the role of self-correction in protecting the integrity of science.
The author argued that a poorly constructed survey and scientists’ efforts to identify and correct problems in scientific practice may be inadvertently increasing news audiences’ exposure to an overgeneralized narrative alleging that science itself is broken or in crisis. According to Jamieson, this is an issue because defective narratives can enhance the capacity of partisans to discredit areas of science, including genetic engineering, vaccination, and climate change, containing findings that are ideologically uncongenial to them.
In contrast, accurate narratives can increase public understanding of the nature of the discovery process. And by responsibly publicizing both breaches of integrity and attempts to forestall them, news can perform its accountability function without undermining public trust in the most reliable form of knowledge generation humans have devised.