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From uncertainty to risk?: Scientific and news media portrayals of nanoparticle safety

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This article examines how nanotechnology has been portrayed in the British newspaper press over an extended period (from April 1, 2003 to July 1, 2006) and the views of scientists involved in nanotechnology research and journalists who wrote news stories. Two methodological strategies are employed: first, recurring patterns in the press coverage were identified using content analysis. Second, scientists and journalists were questioned about their views of coverage and of how health risks were represented. The study revealed that for scientists the most prominent risk issue was nanoparticle safety, although this received only scant attention in the press. Scientists expressed particular concern that efforts be made to regulate pertinent applications before possible health risks become a controversial issue. Both scientists and journalists acknowledged the difficulties of communicating the concept of risk given the uncertainties of nanotechnologies. The implications of the findings for news reporting of nanotechnology risks are discussed.

Keywords: Nanotechnology; media; nanoparticle; risk; scientists; stigma

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Science Communication Unit, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK 2: School of Cultural Studies, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK 3: School of Law and Social Science, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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