Opening up the enclave

Intro masterthesis

In Great Britain the topic of science seems to be alive within the public sphere. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) allocates much of her daily airtime for the purpose of bringing attention to scientific information. Since Brian Cox gave up his popstar career he slowly transformed into a national pin-up scientist. On a regular basis he now appears on tv-shows like Have I Got News For You, where he elaborates on black holes and dark matter, while in his own popular scientific program he explains how everything, including our bodily selves, emerged from stardust. The British Broadcasting Corporation also has longstanding popular science features like Horizon, a documentary series, which has been successfully bringing science to the public realm since 1964. The series has been nominated for a BAFTA and an Emmy Award and has been well received overseas, too.

In The Netherlands, it seems, science forms a less prominent feature on Public National Broadcasting. Immensely popular programs integrate scientific news only sporadically. It is perplexing how De Wereld Draait Door, a daily talkshow watched by an average of one million people, succeeds in popularizing virtually everything, but struggles when it comes to science.  Whenever there is talk about the natural sciences for instance, the usually highly knowledgable host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk ends up scratching his head unable to bridge the gap between his audience and the scientist being interviewed.

Although this anecdote is not a watertight proof of science being more popular in Great Britain, it would be interesting to see why science is seemingly cool in Britain and seemingly dull in The Netherlands. A good place to start looking is a place where topics, like science, are being brought to a national audience: The national news. Within my master thesis I made a comparison between the way in which the BBC and the NOS communicate scientific news. The study looks at news items about science from either news institution and focuses on differences that are expected to play a role in popularization. Consequently, I was able to conclude whether it would be plausible to expect a significant role being played by the BBC in popularizing science among its national audience and which aspects of news are plausible candidates in doing so. Furthermore, I was able to conclude whether at NOS there is room for improvement when it comes to the popularization of science and gained insight into which aspects might lead to a possible upswing.

A full summary of the study will soon be published here in dutch.