Science in the media, from medicine to zoology

Science in the media, from medicine to zoology

“If there is one thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has put into greater focus, it is the role of the media and government. The way you scienceEspecially medical research What is said can make a difference in terms of public health, influencing individual behavior, the choices of decision makers, and resource managementFabio Ambrosino, web content editor at Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore/Think2it, who recently spoke with Nicola Bresi, a zoologist at the Civic Museum of Natural History in Trieste, begins his thinking here. National Conference on Scientific Communication Organized by Sisa in Trieste. The two scientists, who proposed some case studies, studied the way science is reported in the press, television, online, radio and social media. Two fields in particular are taken into account, medicine and zoology.

Ambrosino, which mainly deals with communications and training in the medical and health field, Sometimes there is a little caution when dealing with topics in the health fieldIt happens, for example, that news about a new drug is reported when the studies are still preliminary, perhaps conducted on animal models, before its effectiveness has actually been proven. Sometimes the results of observational research (where scientists simply observe certain phenomena without intervening) are reported: however, Ambrosino emphasizes these studies, they can be useful for generating new hypotheses, but not for establishing cause-and-effect relationships and this must be taken into account. Calculate if it will be discussed.

Furthermore, medicine is often treated in the media as a watertight compartment, meaning we focus a lot on the ramifications in terms of individual health or public health, but often everything related to the economic, social and political aspect of health is taken into account. I’ll give you an example: a treatment can be shown to be particularly effective, even decisive, but if that treatment has a high cost, its actual application can be more complex than expected. Therefore, it is the journalist’s duty to relate the results of research to what is happening in the real world and to tell us what can benefit patients, the health care service, and not other stakeholders.”

Ambrosino believes that it is first necessary to improve the quality of scientific communication in the medical field Do specific trainingJournalists covering science should have at least the basics of research methodology and biomedical statistics. When reporting a scientific study, it is always necessary to take certain aspects into account: if we are talking about a new drug, for example, we need to understand what stage the trial has reached, and consider the characteristics of the sample on which it is being tested. It is also good practice to consider who is funding the study and give appropriate weight to personal experiences, especially in medicine, since it is necessary to pool data to arrive at conclusive evidence.

Nicola Bresi, for his part, teases The issue of scientific denial. It confirms the existence of common patterns that characterize debate in fields that are very far apart from each other. Situations of this kind have clearly emerged during the pandemic, especially after the development and administration of new vaccines, but even in the field of zoology, for example, overlapping dynamics can be seen. “We are witnessing a very strong division – explains the researcher – and polarization in the debate, and those who do not support science always use the same arguments: they are fighting powerful forces, they consider scientists corrupt, and they are convinced by science.” whose existence is not revealed, convinced that everything happens in secret.” In addition to appealing to personal freedom as a value that must be defended at all costs.

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The zoologist continues: “The mechanism of science denial is always the same, albeit in different areas. What changes is the relationship with the media: If we talk about medicine, we try to be a little more careful (during the pandemic there has been almost an inflation of the number of virologists), and when it comes to animal management, the floor is almost always given to animal rights or environmental protection associations, to lovers and animal lovers. Who push their ideas forward. Scientific studies that lead to certain decisions are not reported, creating serious problems for public opinion in understanding the environmental management of wildlife and the scientific method in general.”

Also referring to recent news events (from the murder of Bamboo deer In Val di Zoldo To cull 1500 samples In Stelvio), the zoologist concludes by emphasizing that The role of a science journalist must not only be limited to reporting facts, but also and above all to ask rational questions of the actors involved..

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