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The public sphere according to UK stem cell scientists

Kolka, Alexandra (2012) The public sphere according to UK stem cell scientists. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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In this thesis the concept of social representations is made relevant to the study of the ‘public sphere’ according to scientists. This is elaborated by the re-examination of the notion of a ‘consensual’ and a ‘reified universe’ substantiating a more sociopsychological approach in the study of relevant phenomena. Two processes generate social representations of the public: anchoring and objectification. The empirical study investigates the scientists’ views of the public sphere, in relation to public perceptions, media coverage and the regulation of cloning technology. Elite media coverage of the stem cell debate and conversations with stem cell scientists are systematically analysed with multiple methods. Findings are based on 461 news articles that appeared in Nature and Science between 1997 and 2005 and on interviews with 18 U.K based stem cell researchers conducted between February and October 2005. The analysis compares the debate before and after the ‘stem cell war’ of 2002, and typifies a high tension in representing the public sphere, elaborated in metaphors and prevailing arguments. Central elements of the representation assume a strong disassociation of science from the public sphere; peripheral elements operate with a degree of blurring of those same boundaries, which recognises a common project. This representation, while being expressive of its context of production, constitutes a functional response to it.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2010 Alexandra Kolka
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science

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