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Opinion

Media, Science, Technology and Society

The disclosure of science, the formation of scientific journalists and the relationship between scientists and journalists, are frequent and recurring themes in Brazilian congresses when one discusses the role of the scientific journalist in the formation of public opinion. At the VII Iberian American Congress of Scientific Journalism which took place in Buenos Aires on the 16th to the 18th of November, the situation was no different. Though the general theme had been “Science, Technology and Society” the vast majority of the papers presented limited themselves to giving details of the experiences on disclosure in schools, museums and on the media.

Rare were the papers which dedicated themselves to reflecting about the role of scientific journalism from a political and economic perspective, in which the relationships of power involving the scientific and technological policies were, in fact, the object of debate. In the end, what is the role of scientific journalism?

Scientific journalism must not limit itself to the mere function of a “translator” of the word of the scientist who discloses of his own work, no matter how relevant it might be. The strategic function of SeT, the impact of the scientific and technological production on the environment and the well being of society in general, demand a substantial change in the relationship among the journalist, the scientist and society. We need to stop with the dependency of the journalist on the scientific discourse because of lack of qualification and of a critical vision about the process of the production of understanding.

Through a lack of the understanding of the history of science, of the relationships of powers involved in the area, the journalists rarely discuss a public policy for the area of science and technology. When it is done, it is practically centered on the margin of the volume and distribution of resources, as well as the programs of scholarships. One does not observe, on a day to day basis, a reflection about the Brazilian model of public policies for SeT, which researches are being financed, their results, geographical distribution, criteria for financing and social relevance.

The disclosure of science necessarily passes through the critical perspective of the production of knowledge, a role about which the scientific journalist must not let go. To integrate Brazilian society into the debate about a national scientific policy is a non-deferrable tariff. This discussion must not remain restricted to academic, governmental, or business forums or specialized vehicles. In this context, the role of the media cannot be substituted.

In polemic questions and controversies such as cloning and transgenetics, in which the scientific community itself is divided with arguments contrary and favorable, public opinion remains confused, without being able to take up a position. The natural complexity of the themes which involve scientific information, its influence on the life of the people and the relationships of the powers built into the decision processes, in thepublic and private sphere, make this into a peculiar area of journalistic cover.

Scientific and technological questions demand additional safeguards in the construction and reconstruction of information. In the face of the impasses and challenges provoked by modern science, this discussion should be amplified and put into context from a historical, political, economic and social perspective, qualifying public opinion so that, by way of its social representatives, it can turn itself into an active subject in the process of the formulation of public policies of SeT for the country.

Graça Caldas is a Journalist and researcher in the area of Scientific Disclosure and Policies of SeT at the Methodist University of São Paulo.

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