The Framing Debate

This is an abstract for a talk that I will give at the conference "Research, Politics, Money - and Journalism" on June 1st. If you are interested, drop in at Biocenter, University of Copenhagen, Ole Måløes Vej 6, 2200 CPH N. A program will soon be online.

Title: The Framing Debate

During the last few decades numerous models of science communication and scientific governance have been invented and dropped. Deficit models of educating an ignorant public have become infamous. Ideals about public understanding of science have been deemed patronising. And experiments in deliberative models of scientific governance have demoralized and divided the public instead of creating consensus and trust.
Recently, the effect of 'framing' has become a hot topic due to both theoretical (Lakoff, 1996, 2004) and experimental (De Martino, 2006) evidence showing that people tend to make decisions according to 1) the language used for framing the issue and 2) their prior emotional world view. Rational arguments in themselves play only a marginal role, if any. One preliminary conclusion of the framing debate is that scientists and science communicators need to learn to speak to the heart and make science personal (Nisbet and Mooney, 2007).
It will be argued, however, that this is a dangerous path. Scientific governance cannot be based on democratic ideals of deliberation and inclusion, nor can science communication be based on emotional framing. They posture as egalitarian and democratic but result in politicised decision-making and deflect blame from authority. They see the debating process as more important than the science itself, and become fundamentally anti-science (Durodie, 2003). Instead of plumbing an emotional and moral deficit with distributed moods one must acknowledge the meritocratic nature of science and respect spheres of influence and responsibility.


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