doxa.comunicación | 26, pp. 169-189 | 171

January-June 2018

Spanish Science Culture and Innovation Units (UCC+i) in digital press: a case study Cristina González-Pedraz, Ana Victoria Pérez-Rodríguez, Eva Campos-Domínguez, Miguel Ángel Quintanilla Fisac

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

they collect their information and disseminate it to the general public; And on the other hand, directly with the public itself, without the mediation of journalists (Trench, 2009; Granado, 2011).

SCO use Internet as an easy, trusty cheap way to persuade general audiences about the goodness and quality of their research contributions (Trench, 2009). An effect called “mediatization” of science in Peters (2013) words. This process is characterized by the institutionalization of science press departments, as the communication of science is considered part of scientists work, the professionalization of the relations with the media and a strategic use of those relations for institutional purposes.

Science communication offices have adopted journalistic formats, styles and distribution channels to better reach general public. The sites of these research centers have sections of news or equivalents in which they present science news, anticipating to some extent the interpretation of professional science journalists (Trench, 2009). In addition, SCO practitioners have been trained to disseminate research results as success stories, contributing in some cases to the configuration of a distorted picture of scientific reality (Gerber, 2014).

At the same time, several studies suggest that science journalists increasingly depend on press releases sent to them by scientific journals, universities and research centres (Trench, 2009; Calloni et al., 2009; Granado, 2011; Murcott and Williams, 2013) which raises various ethical and professional objections.

Given the importance of continuous updating and the high competition especially in digital media sector, (Dunwoody, 2014), also considering the decreasing number of journalists working in the news rooms (Hermida, 2010, Priest, 2013), is possible to better understand why media tends to publish information directly received from institutional sources, which may contribute to the dissemination of the biased interests of research institutions (Granado, 2011).

Thus, either directly or indirectly, for some authors SCOs have more influence than ever on what is published in the media and, consequently, on what the public thinks about the work done by scientist and research centres (Brumfiel, 2009).

However, more empirical studies are needed to confirm this situation, as well as to determine the real presence of the work of these SCOs in the media and the particular image of science and knowledge which finally reach the audience.

This paper presents a case study on particular type of SCO, the Spanish Scientific Culture Units (UCC + i). Its singularity is that they are promoted, financed and institutionalized at the state level despite being part either of public or private research departments. This governmental support guarantee that they fulfil a social function, as well as a promotional one. Beyond science publicity and public relations, their fundamental objective is the diffusion of science culture among lay public, so citizen have access to the necessary scientific knowledges and practices required to properly understand, form critical opinions or engage with the scientific system. A model that better match the Responsible Research and Innovation principles that EU is explicitly promoting in H2020 R&D programme.

To reach this goal, UCC + i carry out different kind of activities among which public engagement, science education or science communication actions are included. After a decade of experience, it seems to be the right time to study the impact of their actions. Specifically, this paper focus in the analysis of the impact that UCC+I science communication actions have reached in the Spanish digital press, considering the importance, as has been noted, of the online environment in