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This module addresses the complex interface of research and the media; this interface necessarily involves issues of public policy, however, for the purposes of this module we will focus on media issues and touch on public policy in the Thinking Outside the Box section. For simplicity, when we refer to “media” we are speaking of journalists covering the science beat. In the Introduction we talk about the special collaboration between the media and the researcher and the challenges both face in communicating science to the public at large. We note the ethical component inherent in all communication and include quotations from various experts as to the difficulty of reporting research clearly; the role of rhetoric in discussing science is touched upon. In the Central Essay portion, Dr. JoAnn Burkholder talks about her experiences when dealing with the media and conducting her research in the glare of the public eye. Using specific situations in her work with Pfiesteria as an example, she gives advice to follow when talking with the media. In the Applied Philosophy section we talk about professional responsibility as “right balance” compare the role of the researcher with that of the journalist and talk about the values of objectivity, accuracy and honest disclosure. We ask about the responsibility to report ambiguous results. In the Major Theme section we focus on the challenge of communicating the uncertainty in science, and present a valuable resource for assistance, the NC State News Service. In the Thinking Outside the Box section we touch on public policy issues by presenting an article about the Precautionary Principle, a practice of communicating less than significant findings as having a role in public policy in environmental research. We close with some Additional Resources for further study.


Social Dimensions of Ethical Behavior

Material Type

Teaching Module

Research Area

Engineering | Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


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