"Mapping" knowledge dissemination: Metaphors in scientific and journalistic communication about immunotherapy
Amsterdam (online) : [S.n.]
European Conference on Health Communication, 04 november 2021
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SubjectLanguage & Communication; Persuasive Communication; Radboudumc 18: Healthcare improvement science RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 4: lnfectious Diseases and Global Health RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
Immunotherapy constitutes a paradigm shift in medicine: from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to personalized medicine. By targeting a patient’s immune system in a personalized manner, this relatively novel therapy has already proven effective in treating various forms of cancer, allergies, and infectious diseases like COVID-19. As immunotherapy holds tremendous promise, it receives increasing attention both in scientific publications as well as in journalistic outlets. Responsible communication about research results and future expectations is essential for scientists to optimize knowledge exchange and for the general public to be better informed about this innovative approach. Scientific and journalistic discourse about recent developments in science/medicine, such as personalized immunotherapy, often utilizes literary devices such as metaphors. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a topic, in this case immunotherapy, is described in terms of something else that is more concrete or more familiar, such as a machine or warfare. Scientists use metaphors either as part of their jargon or to discuss novel developments in science. Science journalists use metaphors to simplify complicated and often abstract scientific findings and explain these to the general public. Research on immunotherapy metaphors in scientific and journalistic discourse is scarce. Given that metaphor use reflects the way in which immunotherapy is discussed by experts and communicated to the public, and thereby has the potential to shape these audiences’ thinking, the aim of this study is to map current communication about immunotherapy. To this end, we ask: RQ1a: Which linguistic metaphors are used in the descriptions of immunotherapy? RQ1b: What are the source domains of these metaphors? RQ1c: Which functions do these metaphors have? It is known that journalists sometimes adopt metaphors from academic publications in news articles, but they may also extend existing metaphors or even create new ones. Therefore, we ask: RQ2: How does metaphor use in scientific texts compare to metaphor use in journalistic texts? A sample of 1,425 scientific review articles about immunotherapy published in core clinical journals was obtained through pubmed. The journalistic sample was retrieved through nexisuni and contains approximately 3,000 articles from British news outlets. The units of analysis consist of text chunks containing the term immunotherapy. Three consecutive coding stages are performed to identify: 1) linguistic metaphors related to immunotherapy; 2) metaphorical source domains for each linguistic metaphor; and 3) the functions of the metaphors (RQ1). Next, results from these analyses are used to compare scientific and journalistic texts (RQ2). Data coding and analysis are expected to be completed in August 2021. Preliminary results show that scientific and journalistic outlets use metaphors from well-known source domains such as WAR and MACHINERY, but also lesser-known domains such as BOTANICS (RQ1). Scientific articles seem to use single metaphors that describe coarser-grained situations and goals (“enhance defense mechanisms”; “fighting against infections”), whereas journalistic articles use multiple metaphors that describe finer-grained details in scenarios about immunotherapy (cancer as “enemy”; immune cells as “soldiers” and “fighters”). This suggests journalistic texts not only adopt, but also extend metaphors from scientific texts (RQ2).
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