Representation of Science in Estonian Media: Elements of Mediatization of Science
Not only in Estonia, the scientists have been encouraged to communicate more to the public due to the perceived crises of legitimity of science, lack of public acceptance and STEM students. National science communication programs, like TeaMe in Estonia, contribute to the mediatization process of science through media trainings; scientists are encouraged to adopt media logic to achieve their strategic goals. The “legitimation discourse” of science is seen taking place primarily in the media (Weingart 2005, Rödder 2009).
The thesis is looking at how the process of mediatization is folding in Estonia and is influenced by the specific characteristics of the Estonian society. Potential relevant factors include the relatively recent tranformation of the media and the science, and the small size of the society (1.3 million people).
The study material will mainly come from two case studies: the first Estonian satellite EstCube-1 and the doping case of the most prominent Estonian winter athlete Andrus Veerpalu.
EstCube-1 was announced in summer 2008 and launched in May 2013 with much media interest throughout the process and the emergence of scientist media stars. There are several components to their success such as novelty of being Estonia’s first satellite. However, elements of mediatization are easily detected in the activities of the research group and can account for the wide attention the project received.
According to their own words, the project team, comprising mostly of undergraduate and graduate students, knew very little about media work at the beginning of the project. Through which formal and informal channels did the team members learn about media logic? Which experiences changed their mode of action in respect to media? What modes of action did they adopt during the project?
In addition, the study looks at the possible impact of the mediatized modes of action for the press coverage. Analysing the media coverage of the satellite project, it compares the frames presented in the press releases and the frames adopted by the media.
Skier Andrus Veerpalu’s doping case provides an interesting and exemplary case of public perception of science. In April 2011 he tested positive for human growth hormone. The athlete and his defence team immediately started questioning the science behind the test. In March 2013 the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in favour of the athlete, relying on the scientific analysis provided by Estonian experts. Throughout the case, the scientific debate was held in the public sphere.