Internet first choice for scientific information

Watch five hours of US cable news, and on average you will see around 35 minutes on election campaigns, another 36 minutes on US foreign policy, and 26 minutes on crime — but only about one minute on science and technology, slightly more on the environment, and only a little over 3 minutes on medicine and health care. (The rest is taken up with other local issues, weather, entertainment and so on.) Science news in the United States has indeed been squeezed to around 2% of the total since the events of 11 September 2001. But it was never that high, hovering around 4–6% from the mid-1970s until 2001. And the drop does not reflect a falling public interest in science, as much as the media's increased emphasis on foreign policy, war and the homeland: the diversity of US news coverage has decreased across the board since 9/11.
These numbers are obtained from a new study by The Pew Research Center, The State of the News Media 2008, and were discussed in one of Nature's editorials last week (Nature 452, 378; 27 March 2008). From the editorial: "The Pew Center's numbers offer another reason not to be gloomy: the Internet is overtaking television as the public's main source of science news. This means that a larger global audience can now access, on demand, a great diversity of science coverage from media outlets around the world. Moreover, the public are no longer just passive consumers of information. The Internet is now the first place people go to look for more information on a scientific topic, such as stem cells or climate change. Thanks to the Internet, in short, one could argue that the overall state of science communication is better now than at any time in the past."
Nature's editorials are free to access online, so please read on at this link.
(Cross posted at Nautilus.)

3 thoughts on “Internet first choice for scientific information

  1. The latest edition of The Deal, the mag for the London Book Fair arrived today and there was an article in it saying that publishers could learn a lot from the way the academic community uses the web. Nature had a specific glowing mention. Online link here:
    http://view.vcab.com/showvcab.aspx?vcabid=0vUgag8S68rr8
    Go to page 13. (Not easy to read online, but you can print it. And if you’d like the hard copy, I’ll bring it with me on 14/4!)

  2. That’s really interesting, cfr, I had peered at that digi edition mag before, but had missed that (owing to poor repro I imagine). Very nice mention of Nature.com — Timo Hannay, who is quoted, is responsible for our social networking activities. Would love to see a hard copy if you don’t mind bringing it along!
    All best and thanks again
    Maxine.

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