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APPENDIX B Survey of Journalists' Perceptions of Engineers, Physicians, and Scientists As part of this report, a survey was taken of journalists in the print and electronic media regarding their perceptions of technical experts, specifically, engineers, physicians, and scientists. The survey was an attempt to determine the answers to these questions: 1. How often, relatively speaking, do journalists solicit the three types of experts for comment? 2. How do journalists perceive these experts? 3. Where are journalists most apt to look for these experts? The eight-question survey was mailed to 1, 1 18 journalists, including 569 science journalists From the mailing list of the National Associa- tion of Science-WritersJ and 549 generalists. A discrete body of engi- neering/technology writers was not readily identifiable. A total of 202 journalists responded, which was a response rate of 18 percent. Of the 549 generalists, 54 ~10 percentJ returned the question- naire, with 148 j26 percentJ of the science writers responding. Given this much higher response rate, answers for each of the following ques- tions were controlled for the type of journalist responding. Overall, the results of the survey showed that journalists have sub- stantially less contact with engineers than with either physicians or scientists. Journalists turned to engineers on only 11 percent of their stories on health, science, or technology, with little distinction between science writers {10 percentJ and Conscience writers ~13 per- centJ. On the other hand, journalists turned to physicians 41 percent of 65

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66 APPENDIX B the time with little difference between the type of journalist and to scientists 35 percent of the time Science writers, 39 percent; general- ists, 23 percents . See Table B-1. ~ Only 23 journalists; 11 percent of the total 202 respondents) turned to engineers before physicians or scientists. Respondents were also asked to describe, on the average, how many engineers, physicians, and scientists they spoke with each week. Over- all, respondents spoke with 4 times as many physicians or scientists as engineers. There were differences, however, between science journal- ists and Conscience journalists. Nonscience journalists contacted only 1.5 to 2.5 times as many physicians or scientists; science reporters approached 4.5 times as many scientists or physicians. When journalists were asked whether they thought a description of the engineer, physician, or scientist as "wooden" was true, somewhat true, or not true, about three out of four {74 percents said that it is true or somewhat true for engineers. Only 55 percent thought that the assess- ment was true or somewhat true for physicians, compared to 50 percent for scientists. Responding journalists also were surveyed about where they were most likely to seek each of the three types of experts. On a scale of one Most likely) to seven {least likely), reporters were asked to rate the following sources of contacts: academia, government, industry, profes- sional society, public interest, trade association, and other. Reporters were most likely to turn to industry while seeking engi- neers, with academia, government, and professional societies as next choices See Table B-2~. When controlling for type of reporter, however, nonspecialists were more likely to look first to academia and then to industry, professional societies, and government. TABLE B-1 Use by Respondent Journalists of Three Types of Experts {percent) 12.8 42.1 22.6 10.0 41.4 39.4 Experts Engineers Physicians Scientists Journalists Nonscience Science Total 11.0 41.5 34.9

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APPENDIX B 67 Table B-2 Journalists' Preferred Use of Institutions in Seeking Experts Types of Institutions Academic Government Industry Professional society Public information Trade association Other Engineers Physicians Scientists 2 3 1 4 3 4 2 4 6 s 7 6