Stemming the Tide (Stem Cell Research Articles)

The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times, 2006, 26 August 2006
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Background In 2006, political and religious voices were gaining more coverage than scientists in the stem cell debate. This investigation, consisting of features and a news story in the Canberra Times, focussed on representing neglected scientific voices. Contribution The series represented an original contribution to knowledge by investigating how scientists perceive the construction of the stem cell debate, using advanced journalism methods of in-depth interviews, surveys and analysis of available media and scholarly literature. A review of media publications showed claims of spinal cord fixes were matched by fears stem cells were the 'work of the devil'. My research intervened in this debate by asking: what do scientists themselves think about the value of stem cells to society? I approached nearly 100 university and institute based stem cell scientists for interviews. 50 responded of whom 21 were selected. My research revealed that a significant section of the scientific community did want their views on stem cells aired in the media but that most supported stem cell research, although a handful called for strict guidelines. Significance Using more extensive interviewing than other media, my research revealed that most scientists resented the fact that their research had become a political football on a cultural battleground. They accused politicians of distorting scientific argument; accused media of providing little rational or scientific argument in newspapers and none on mainstream television or radio. These articles filled a gap in media representation and provided groundwork for deepening community understanding of the way in which the public debate about stem cells was conducted.
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