Author:Elizabeth Jones (University College London)
Paper short abstract:
I argue that the history of ancient DNA research is a history of celebrity science. Through interviews with over fifty scientists, I reveal the intricate relationship between science and the popular press to enlighten the process of science communication in a world of modern media.
Paper long abstract:
In this talk, I argue that the history of ancient DNA research is a history of celebrity science. The search for DNA from fossils has a short but sensational history. It started in the 1980s and evolved from an exploratory to an established technoscientific practice. I argue that ancient DNA research has developed under the influence of intense public interest and extreme media exposure as it coincided with and was accelerated by the book and movie Jurassic Park. Through original and personal interviews with over fifty scientists who work in and around the field, I use oral history to reveal the intricate relationship between science and the popular press. I combine oral history with literature in the sociology and history of science to enlighten the process of science communication in a world of modern media. This talk engages the concepts of trading zones, shared cultures, and working worlds and explains its implications for understanding the process of science communication in action. From the start, ancient DNA research was a science in the spotlight, and researchers and reporters created a dynamic dialogue as a consequence. Here, I show evidence for the role of news value in science and media and how they conflict or coincide in the development of a discipline into a celebrity science. I show how it both helps and hinders the advance of a particular science, and most importantly, how celebrity culture has influenced - and will continue to influence - the shaping of science and science communication.