Does the apple fall far from the tree?: reviewing the communication of scientific information about GMOs
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 15:52 by Lauren Kirby
Online content is changing the way the public accesses and understands science. The staggering number of often conflicting online sources about science makes it difficult for the lay public to know where to turn in search of accurate scientific information. This project will examine how the nature of online content might be affecting how the public learns about science. Through textual content analyses, it will examine the chain of communication (scientists→online media→public) and document how scientific information evolves. Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ Arctic apple, a genetically modified organism (GMO) that has had the polyphenol oxidase (PPO) gene silenced, will be used as a case study. Three primary themes guide my research: the public understanding of science (PUS), the communication of risk and uncertainty, and social epistemology. The primacy of the PUS movement in public venues for science makes it an important theory for my project, while theories of risk/uncertainty and social epistemology will inform my analysis. My results suggest that: 1) stories about science often include over and understatements of uncertainties and risks; 2) online media stories apply rhetorical frames when reporting scientific information, but the way in which framing is used appears to be reflective of whether the author wishes to persuade their audience; and 3) the rhetorical frames used by online stories about science are not typically integrated into the public’s commentary in a meaningful way, supporting the notion that audiences are active rather than passive and that the public seeks out content that complements their pre-existing beliefs.