Does media coverage of research misconduct impact on public trust in science? A study of news reporting and confidence in research in Sweden 2002–2013

Ulrika Andersson


Over the past decade, there has been a gradual decline in public trust in science in Sweden. Questions have been raised as to whether or not this decline is the result of news media reports on research misconduct. Taking off in a theoretical discussion about the news media agenda-setting function, this study examined the extent to which, if any, there really is a connection between public trust and news content. It did so by drawing empirical support from a content analysis of the largest Swedish news media reporting on research misconduct in the years 2002–2013 and also from annual surveys of Swedes´ media consumption and trust in science, conducted over the same time period. Using news consumption, i.e. media exposure, as a proxy variable in the analysis, this study came to the conclusion that exposure to this type of news reporting had a positive rather than negative effect on public trust in science. The article discusses why this is so and also identifies some important questions that require to be further researched in order to understand public trust in science.


media effects; agenda setting; research misconduct; public trust

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