Determination of socioscientific issue at local level: the case of water as a natural resource in the Almería press

University of Almería, Spain

Supervisor: Mª Rut Jiménez Liso

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Socioscientific issues arise and surround us in our society as current and rising topics, as for instance happens with the use of genetically modified products, homeopathy, the impact of mobile and land telephones on human health, etc. These SSI are very important in the latest educational proposals (Sadler and Zeidler, 2009) so the main objective of this Doctoral Dissertation is to focus on the study of indicators in order to determine SSI in the press that can be useful for teachers who want to use news items with SSI in the science classroom.

We have chosen the subject water as a socioscientific issue in Almería for different reasons: on the one hand, there is a perception in Almería of there being a water shortage. This perception coexists with a high demand for water for irrigation in agriculture. Also, water is perceived as an important environmental problem as the Andalusian Ecobarómetro shows (2004 and 2010). On the other hand, the establishment of the Water Administrative Board and the debate opened in 2004 with the repealing of the National Hydrological Plan and the river Ebro transfer.

After conducting a bibliographical review on media and educational literature focused on using SSI in the classroom (Díaz-Moreno & Jiménez-Liso, 2012) we have detected the first indicators that have been used by other authors (Dimopoulos & Koulaidis, 2002 & 2003, Fernández-Muerza, 2007, Jarman & McClune, 2007 & Lapetina, 2005) in the scientific news analysis (SSI-1): presence, importance (determined by sub-indicators such as size, front page, images, etc.), type of event, life areas most influenced by the news, sub-themes and socioscientific trends. We have applied these five SSI-1 indicators in two news samples selected in the Almería press:

a. An ordinary or normal sample obtained under sampling full weeks (Dimopoulos & Koulaidis, 2003) comprised of the last week of the months of February, June and October 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 in the local press (Ideal and La Voz de Almería) and

b. A controversial sample that has been selected from the same newspapers choosing its peak of impact in the timeline (Fernández-Muerza, 2005) of the Ebro controversy in the press (March 2004).

We compared results after applying SSI-1 in the above samples indicating that presence does not give us enough information to determine if the topic is a socioscientific issue although the daily average of 0.47 items for normal sample increases considerably to 2.39 for controversial sample therefore another topic is required to be compare to and to indicate whether these averages indicate controversy or not.

The results of the importance indicator shows a very similar treatment between the two samples with a medium average size. The presence of images is nearly identical (64 and 63.4% respectively), hardly any presence on the cover (20 and 23,19%), and in front page (42 and 55.07%), indicating that the newspaper dedicates similar space to this topic whether it is a controversial period or not. However, other indicators SSI-1 provide enough information to determine the state of controversy, for example:

- The news presents "political-economic" events extensively in the two samples (40% and 85.5%), but its presence in the controversial sample at 85,5% is substantially greater and therefore becomes a good indicator of the controversial nature of the news;

- In the areas of life we have obtained that for the normal sample the majority areas presented are "agriculture" and "services" while for the controversial sample the areas related to “management” are the majority.

- Finally, the normal sample reveals that the subject matter of the sub-topic is diverse (16 groups) moreover there is little presence of socioscientific trends or controversial approaches (46%) while the controversial sample has a high concentration of sub-themes (7 groups) and a high presence of socioscientific trends (100%) suggesting the presence of controversy regarding the issue of water in the local press.

In order to increase the number of indicators we carried out the cartography of controversy (Venturini, 2010) about the subject of water in Almería. The cartography or map of the controversy is a graphical representation of water controversy that allows us to describe it in greater detail.

Using an analogy with maps, we find nodes in the cartography of controversies (similar to crossroads, corresponding to the actors in a controversy), which are linked as if by roads. We have categorized the actors of scientific news by similarity and we have established for the first time networks of actors, which we have cross-referenced with SSI-1 data: types of event and socioscientific trends.

First, the links between nodes (networks of actors-types of event or networks of actors-socioscientific trends) will indicate the social impact of the topic so a greater number of links and greater heterogeneity indicates that the topic affects many social, scientific, political or administrative actors.

Second, the analysis of the crossroads between networks of actors and types of events shows that the major links regarding water are established in a "political-economic" and "research" framework, which confirm the necessary relationship between science and society resulting in a socioscientific controversy.

Finally, the links between networks of actors-socioscientific trends show us which trends are generating more controversy in terms of the concentration of networks of actors to which it is related. In our case, this refers to water in the Almería press and are mainly "PHN" and "water shortage" the currents that generate controversy to a greater extend.

Therefore, we have established seven indicators of socioscientific issues in the press that can generally serve to be applied to any standardised mode, classifying them as indicators of a general type: those which need to be complemented with more indicators to establish whether a topic is a socioscientific issue, and of a specific type: those which, by themselves, evaluate if a topic can be measured or not as a socioscientific issue.

Keywords: socioscientific issues, newspapers, water, science education


Díaz Moreno, Naira C. (2013). Determinación de una controversia sociocientífica a nivel local: El caso del agua como recurso natural en la prensa almeriense. Universidad de Almería (in press).


Dr. Naira Díaz Moreno
Departamento de Educación
Universidad de Almería
La Cañada de San Urbano s/n
04120 Almería

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Phone: +34 950015969

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