Scientific Values and Value-Based Science Reporting

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Submission Summary
I will critically evaluate a science communication strategy – ‘Value-Based Reporting’ – which researchers in science communication are increasingly recommending to science journalists. According to Value-Based Reporting, science reporters should, whenever feasible, report a scientific hypothesis in a manner that appeals to the social values of the intended recipients (Dixon et al. 2017; Kahan et al. 2011). The strategy is motivated by empirical research which suggests that identity-protective reasoning is a central reason for laypersons’ selective skepticism of science communication regarding politically polarizing issues such as climate, vaccines, gun control etc. (; Kahen 2013; Nisbet et al. 2015; Frimer et al. 2017; Science journalists may implement the generic Value-Based Reporting strategy in different ways. One strand of the strategy is labeled identity affirmation and consists in showing the target recipient group “that the information in fact supports or is consistent with a conclusion that affirms their cultural values” (Kahan et al. 2011: 169). A different strand is labeled narrative framing and consists in “crafting messages to evoke narrative templates that are culturally congenial to target audiences” (Kahan et al. 2011: 170). I argue that while the empirical reasons for adopting Value-Based Reporting are strong ones, this strategy faces serious challenges in delivering on a number of desiderata for science communication. Given that science communication is a part of the scientific enterprise, broadly construed, these desiderata reflect core scientific values. In consequence, Value-Based Reporting is in tension with core scientific values. On the basis of the negative sub-conclusion, I consider an alternative positive science communication strategy – Justification Reporting – according to which science reporters should, whenever feasible, report appropriate aspects of the nature and strength of scientific justification, or lack thereof, for a reported scientific hypothesis (Gerken 2020). I conclude by arguing that although Value-Based Reporting and Justification Reporting may initially appear to be incompatible competitors, there are interesting ways of integrating them. In particular, I argue that such an integration may preserve the key advantages of Value-Based Reporting in a manner that addresses some of the noted challenges. In this manner, the paper exemplifies how resources from philosophy of science may be brought to bear on concrete challenges for contemporary science journalism. Dixon, G., Hmielowski, J., & Ma, Y. (2017). Improving climate change acceptance among US conservatives through value-based message targeting. Science Communication, 39 (4): 520-534. Frimer, J. A., Skitka, L. J., & Motyl, M. (2017). Liberals and conservatives are similarly motivated to avoid exposure to one another’s opinions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 72: 1-12. Gerken, M. (2020). Public scientific testimony in the scientific image. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 80, 90-101. Kahan D., Jenkins-Smith H, Braman D. (2011). Cultural cognition of scien¬tific consensus. Journal of Risk Research 14: 147–174. doi:10.1080/136 69877.2010.511246 Kahan, D. M. (2013). Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection. Judgment and Decision Making, 8 (4): 407–424. Nisbet, E. C., Cooper, K. E., & Garrett, R. K. (2015). The partisan brain: How dissonant science messages lead conservatives and liberals to (dis) trust science. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 658 (1): 36-66.
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University of Southern Denmark

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