Media reports and the public perceptions about science – MMR scares - Assignment Example

A film: Men in black 3 the movie, is about a government agent who uses science to travel back in time to save his friends life from aliens and change history for the good of the world. Public perceptions on science would change after watching this film as people would think there might me some other species living in the universe, which might be planning to attack and take over planet earth. Also people may think the government may have advanced technology, such as time travel tools used in the movie and wonder if they have ever been used, or being planned to be used, and what the after effects of this could be. This could also lead people on to have more of an interest in science and maybe take on a scientific career as the film portrays that science has no limits.

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A television series: Scrubs is a TV series set in a hospital and is about the lives of interns, doctors and patients. It shows how science is used in operation and medicine and how vital it is to human life. Public perceptions on science would change positively as they would learn to appreciate science more as the series shows a 7 year old boy, who was involved in a serious car accident, and an operation meant he could walk again, although the series does not include real life events it relates to many viewers lives, as such events do happen in reality. After watching this people may want to become doctors or do something that is ‘life changing’ and involves helping other people.

A documentary: Japan’s Tsunami: How it happened is a documentary that shows how the tragic tsunami that claimed so many lives, happened. With the use of science it breaks down every point of the massive earthquake measuring 9.0. Public perceptions on science may change as they may want to become Seismologists a person who studies seismic waves like the person shown in the documentary Professor Roger Bilham. In the documentary it explains how the earth is made of tectonic plates and how Japan is sitting between two of these. The earthquake happened by these plates ramming into each other at about 8cm a year and this tension built up for 100s of years causing the earthquake. Viewer’s perspective on the planet and how it is made would dramatically change, as they may think they’re in danger of an earthquake and learn to appreciate life more.

A science ‘scare’ story: The MMR vaccine scandal caused a lot of concern as it was thought to have been linked to autism and in some cases even the cause of some deaths. Due to this parents refused to vaccinate their children as they didn’t want their kids to have autism. Studies were done by many large renowned scientific organisations such as: Centre’s for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, Institute of Medicine, US National Academy of Sciences, UK National Health Services and the Cochrane Library all undertook hundreds of studies each and found no link between the vaccine and autism. Public Perceptions on science may have changed negatively; people may have thought if they can really trust ‘science’ and parents who decided not to go on with the vaccination may ask themselves if they made the right decision, especially parents whose kids got Measles, Mumps or Rubella.

Two recent high-profile cases where public concerns about science developments have made the headlines (P3):

Mobile phones cause cancer: In 2011 the International Agency for Cancer Research declared mobile phones as a 2B rating meaning there is possibly a link between mobile phones and cancer. Mobile phones emit radiofrequency energy, a type of radiation that can be absorbed by tissues and cause cancer.

This scared the public from using their phones as much and many started installing hands free kits in their cars and tried to avoid contact. Also many people stopped their kids from using phones.

Research shows there is insufficient evidence to confidently say there is a link between mobile phones and cancer, but there isn’t enough evidence to rule out if there is no link. The research showed no direct link in two of the most common types of brain tumors, glioma and meningioma but there was a slight increase in a rarer type the acoustic neuroma only shown where phones had been used regularly on a long term basis, 5 years or more.

Even if a link was found most of the public would not completely stop using mobile phones as they are a big part of everyday life, used in business, contacting family/friends that live hundreds of miles away. It’s like smoking it has become a big part of people’s lives even though smoking was found to be a cause of cancer. Millions of people still smoke carelessly.

Pesticide use and its disadvantages: Pesticides are the only toxic substance used intentionally into our environment to kill living things. Key examples of this are: herbicides used for weeds, insecticides used for insects, fungicides used for fungus, rodenticides used for rodents. There are various types of pesticides with various uses. Pesticides are commonly used in day to day life. They have been found to link to serious health hazards such as cancer.

The public use pesticides on a daily basis, they can be found places such as: schools, parks, offices, forests, roads, homes and farms. Finding out it is linked to cancer and other serious health hazards may lead people to use it less and only when needed.

Research shows a significant link between endocrine disruption which can cause infertility and multiple birth defects such as: hormonal imbalance, incomplete sexual development, impaired brain development, behavioural disorders and many other serious health risks. Also studies show that children who are brought up in homes where pesticides are used are, twice as likely to get brain cancer as a pesticide free home.

People may change their lifestyle completely after hearing this as having kids and a family is what some people aspire to, and they would do anything to ensure the health of their future kids. Also they may remove pesticides from their house completely if they have already got a kid.

Analyse two recent cases where concerns about the involvement of science have been raised (M2):

Mobile phones cause cancer: Mobiles phone causing cancer was a really worrying thing for all people around the world. Everybody uses mobile phones every single day and these days even children do. The concerns that were raised were when the media were releasing articles the population of people knowing about this were rising and getting more worrying. As people found out they became extremely scared as they were thinking they may already have brain cancer that they don’t know about as they use phones every day of their lives.

Phones are used in businesses. And these people in business were feeling that they need to work around using mobile phones as they are considered dangerous to our human bodies. This was horrific news for everyone as there was a very high risk of most people to have cancer as they use phones every day.

In 2011, the international agency for research on cancer classified mobile phones for the first time in the rating system. They had rated the devices as ‘group 2b’ which means that they could possibly cause cancer in humans. On the internet the media have used cancer research UK where they have this article on phones causing cancer.

The news was also on the daily telegraph newspaper and the sun. These two media newspapers had this article about phones causing cancer and these newspapers are read by people every day. People who read these newspapers would have read the article and would have definitely panicked as they would most definitely use a phone everyday so, so you can just imagine how worried people are about this.

After this they had done many different forms of things to see whether these articles are true. After all it shows that it is false as the evidence they had gathered shows phones does not increase the risk of brain tumours and any other type of cancer. They had done a million women study and this included around 790000 women, they had found no link between use of mobile phones and brain cancer in general or 18 other different types of cancer. Researcher found no link between mobile phones use and risk of two most common types of brain tumour. They did see a raised risk of one rare type of brain tumour for women who use a phone for at least 5 years.

MMR vaccine: The MMR scandal caused people to think that the vaccine causes autism a condition where people struggle to communicate and listen. People thought it wasn’t worth the risk of getting their child vaccinated. Many found out through the use of media, news channels, radio stations, papers etc. Because of this the disease got bigger and spread more as parents stopped getting their kids vaccinated.

Vaccinations can’t be safe as either way people will get side effects which will vary. The less people vaccinated the more people will catch the disease. You may have more of a chance of falling very ill or even dying from the disease than experiencing a serious side effect. The use of vaccines is a very efficient use of government funding as it’s much cheaper than treating an ill person it also keeps hospitals less vacated and available for people who need them.

When there were less people that were vaccinated the disease had increased, when the disease had increased autism also increased and this proves that there was not any link between the two.

Is the public’s perception of science influenced in a positive way by the media reports science stories (D2)?

When it comes to reporting on science, the media creates a parody of science with their choice of stories. The media is very powerful and has a huge influence on people’s views but recent studies show that only 18% of people actually believe what they read in the papers or on the news . Even the paper ‘theguradian’ published an article on how ‘dumbly’ the media portrays science.

The article explains how science stories usually fall into 3 categories: wacky stories, scare stories and breakthrough stories.

A key example of a ‘scare story’ is the MMR scandal since that was brought out not many have come into the highlight. Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman apologised to MMR experts accepting that the media played a shameful role in the MMR scandal. He accepted that the media blew the whole thing out of proportion and not even Andrew Wakefield was singly responsible.

The article explains how the MMR scandal improved this ‘bad science’ in the media and now scientists are willing to share their expertise to avoid the same situation happening again. Now when publishing anything to do with science ‘peer review’ is done, this is where the work Is evaluated before it is published to ensure the public is receiving quality information.

An example of a breakthrough story is the finding of new information about DNA and how it can wrap itself into a different shape. After a whopping 60 years of research.