between the scientific and the humanist disciplines. However, there has been amajor change in attitude in the last few decades and since the 1950s both thenumber of science reporters and the amount of science covered in the news havegrown (Greogory and Miller 2000). A lot of what goes on in modern society isscience based, and nowadays there is an agreement within the scientific communityas well as national governments that the public must understand science “if they areto be useful citizens, capable of functioning correctly as workers, consumers andvoters in a modern technical world” (Ibid p1). Concern for public understanding of science is often raised within the context of the closely related idea of scientificliteracy, which can be defined as an understanding of the relationship betweenscience and other domains in society (Laetsch 1987).
Thomas and Durant observe that being scientific literate is
to be able to recognize science for what it is, and thus to makediscerning judgments about its personal and social relevance” (cited in
literacy has become a subject of both political attention andacademic research, often focusing on the role of the media in conveying ideas aboutscience. A common proposition is that the level of public understanding of scienceand health is much dependent on the quality of media coverage of these topics.Studies of science in the media are generally founded on two propositions: thatscience matters more in contemporary society than in any other previous age, andthat mass media are the main source of information about science for most of us(Trench 2007). It seems reasonable to assume that these claims combined haveincreased the pressure on the news media to provide accurate and competentcoverage of science related topics. Indeed, science journalists have been described asbrokers, “framing social reality and shaping the public consciousness about science”(Nelkin 1987 p101). Hence, there are increasing demands on the science journalists’ability to explain scientific findings in ways that people can understand withoutcompromising on accuracy. According to Logan (1991) scientists have found a lownumber of direct errors in science and biomedical news stories, however; thedefinition of accuracy must be expanded beyond that of factual errors. Distortion inscience news can be defined as press reports that are oversimplified or