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Science and Media
Fragile and Conflicting Scientific Evidence in the Decision-making Process of the Initiative for Excellence and its Media Coverage

iFQ participates in the DFG Priority Programme 1409 “Science and the General Public” with a project that intends to evaluate the interaction of Science and the Media using the example of the German funding programme “Initiative for Excellence”. Within the Initiative for Excellence, the independence of the decision-making process (decisions are based on board majority) based on the principle of scientific competence (Peer Review) is rated highly relevant by the scientific community. The media, on the other hand, has employed unusually intensive strategies of political and investigative journalism in reporting about the Initiative for Excellence funding programme. At this junction, fragile scientific evidence and the assurance of a due process is confronted with newsworthiness and investigative curiosity of mass media reporting. Scientific and political commentaries together with journalistic criticism create a mélange with its own momentum and with its own repercussions on the processes occurring within the two disciplines.

In the background a long-term change process is arising during which on the one hand journalistic interest in science and the intensity of the reporting increases, but on the other hand, doubts on the assurance of evidence from a due process based on classical scientific procedures (Peer Review) surface - fueled by scientific scandals in recent years (for example, ethics debates in Medicine and Tobacco industries, forgery scandals and fraud cases). As a consequence, uncertainty in the scientific community has evolved on whether and how internal scientific publicity should be detached from mass media observation. The case of the funding programme “Initiative for Excellence” is a typical example where the fragility of scientific judgments and the changing structure of public reasoning over science collide.

The project is part of the DFG Priority Programme SPP 1409 “Science and the General Public: Understanding Fragile and Conflicting Scientific Evidence" (Field B) (“Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit: Das Verständnis fragiler und konfligierender wissenschaftlichen Evidenz (Erfahrungsbereich B)”). SPP 1409 focuses on studying the intersection between Science and Publicity. For more information on the priority programme see

Duration: July 2009 – July 2011
Co-operation partner: Prof. Wormer (Univ. Dortmund)
Funding: DFG
Contact person: Christoph Marty