Status vs. contributory expertise in the media

16/12/2008 at 11:14 Leave a comment

Students at our university organized a public debate about higher education and the Bologna process. They invited two speakers: a political scientist from Germany who works as a scientist on the topic of higher education and a local philosophy professor who has no scientific credentials in these matters. Guess which one of the two got the big interview in our local newspaper to inform the public afterwards?

Collins and Evans (2002, The third wave of science studies) proposed three kinds of expertise: contributory expertise, interactional expertise, and no expertise. There is an argument to be made why interactional experts should be preferred as informants for mass media over the other two. But in the case of contributory expertise vs. no expertise there seems to be little reason for preferring the non-expert. However, mass media operate differently. No expertise combined with academic status (professorship), local color, and controversial statements beats contributory expertise any time. Especially if the contributory expert is open about his non-mainstream political views.

So you guessed right, the local philosophy professor is suggesting in our local newspaper that tuition fees should be raised tenfold because it is unjust that garbage men, farmers, secretaries, and nurses should pay for the college education of others. This proposal is backed by her own experiences as a student who had to pay back her student loan (N=1).

Entry filed under: Mass media, Public understanding of science, Science policy, University of Basel.

Merkwürdiges an der Uni Basel Publication delay of scientific journals

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