Factual accuracy and the cultural context of science in popular media: Perspectives of media makers, middle school students, and university students on an entertainment television program.Public Underst Sci. 2017 07; 26(5):596-611.PU
Popular media influences ideas about science constructed by the public. To sway media productions, public policy organizations have increasingly promoted use of science consultants. This study contributes to understanding the connection from science consultants to popular media to public outcomes. A science-based television series was examined for intended messages of the creator and consulting scientist, and received messages among middle school and non-science university students. The results suggest the consulting scientist missed an opportunity to influence the portrayal of the cultural contexts of science and that middle school students may be reading these aspects uncritically-a deficiency educators could potentially address. In contrast, all groups discussed the science content and practices of the show, indicating that scientific facts were salient to both media makers and audiences. This suggests popular media may influence the public knowledge of science, supporting concerns of scientists about the accuracy of fictional television and film.