Kevin Outterson emailed me* a link to a paper that might as well be the very definition of “insular.”
Journal publication has long been relied on as the only required communication of results, tasking journalists with bringing news of scientific discoveries to the public. Output of science papers increased 15% between 1990 and 2001, with total output over 650,000. But, fewer than 0.013—0.34% of papers gained attention from mass media, with health/medicine papers taking the lion’s share of coverage. Fields outside of health/medicine had an appearance rate of only 0.001—0.005%. In light of findings that show scientific literacy declining despite growing public interest and scientific output, this study attempts to show that reliance on journal publication and subsequent coverage by the media as the sole form of communication en masse is failing to communicate science to the public.
That’s the abstract of “Scientists are talking, but mostly to each other: a quantitative analysis of research represented in mass media,” a paper by Julie Suleski and Motomu Ibaraki, both of Ohio State University.
One answer: my call for “the great translation.”
* Later Kevin noted that a hat tip is due to Tyler Cowen (see “irony test”).