Climate Feedback: Wissenschaft kommentiert Journalismus und entwickelt Mehrsystemkompetenz (2020)


Wissenschaft und Journalismus beruhen auf unterschiedlichen Logiken. Aus Sicht der Systemtheorie überrascht es also nicht, wenn WissenschaftlerInnen Wissenschaftsjournalismus kritisieren. Gleichzeitig wird aber auch eine Medialisierung von Wissenschaft postuliert. Demnach würde sich Wissenschaft zunehmend an Medienlogiken orientieren. Diese Studie prüft explorativ, welche Kriterien WissenschaftlerInnen bei der Beurteilung journalistischer Artikel heranziehen und welche Aspekte sie loben und kritisieren. Dazu werten wir die Kommentare auf dem Blog „Climate Feedback“ qualitativ inhaltsanalytisch aus. Induktiv werden zunächst die angelegten Evaluationskriterien der WissenschaftlerInnen kategorisiert und dann den Überkategorien „journalistische Vermittlungsleistung“ oder „wissenschaftliche Informationsleistung“ zugeordnet. Unsere Ergebnisse, basierend auf 82 Blogeinträgen und den Kommentaren von 184 WissenschaftlerInnen im Zeitraum von 2015 bis 2017, zeigen, dass sich die WissenschaftlerInnen intensiv und sogar häufiger mit Aspekten der journalistischen als der wissenschaftlichen Leistung beschäftigen. Sie sehen die journalistischen Kriterien eher als erfüllt an, während sie das Fehlen wissenschaftlicher Standards kritisieren. Die beteiligten WissenschaftlerInnen kombinieren die Kommunikationsnormen beider Systeme. Für den Ansatz der Medialisierung von Wissenschaft ergibt sich der Befund, dass die Diffusion von Medienlogiken keineswegs zur Aufgabe von Logiken der Wissenschaft führen muss, sondern dass kompetente Akteure an der Schnittstelle zwischen Journalismus und Wissenschaft Mehrsystemkompetenz erwerben und anwenden können.

Walter, S., Görlach, J. & Brüggemann, M. Climate Feedback: Wissenschaft kommentiert Journalismus und entwickelt Mehrsystemkompetenz. Publizistik (2020). Available online at

Post-normal science communication: exploring the blurring boundaries of science and journalism (2020)


This article provides a framework for analysing changes and continuities in science communication. The field is challenged by three contexts: (1) ‘post-normal situations’ of coping with uncertainties, value questions, an urgency to take action, and associated political pressures; (2) a dramatically changing media environment, and (3) a polarizing discourse culture. We refine the concept of post-normal science to make it more applicable to analyse public science communication in an era of digital media networks. Focussing on changes in the interactions between scientists and journalists, we identify two ideal types: normal and post-normal science communication, and conclude that the boundaries of science and journalism are blurring and under renegotiation. Scientists and journalists develop new shared role models, norms, and practices. Both groups are increasingly acting as advocates for common goods that emphasize the emerging norms of post-normal science communication: transparency, interpretation, advocacy and participation.

Brüggemann, Michael; Lörcher, Ines; Walter, Stefanie (2020): Post-normal Science Communication. Exploring the Blurring Boundaries of Science and Journalism. In JCOM 19 (03). DOI: 10.22323/2.19030202. Available online at

Scientific networks on Twitter: Analyzing scientists’ interactions in the climate change debate (2019)

Scientific issues requiring urgent societal actions—such as climate change—have increased the need for communication and interaction between scientists and other societal actors. Social media platforms facilitate such exchanges. This study investigates who scientists interact with on Twitter, and whether their communication differs when engaging with actors beyond the scientific community. We focus on the climate change debate on Twitter and combine network analysis with automated content analysis. The results show that scientists interact most intensively with their peers, but also communication beyond the scientific community is important. The findings suggest that scientists adjust their communication style to their audience: They use more neutral language when communicating with other scientists, and more words expressing negative emotions when communicating with journalists, civil society, and politicians. Likewise, they stress certainty more when communicating with politicians, indicating that scientists use language strategically when communicating beyond the scientific community.

Walter, Stefanie; Lörcher, Ines; Brüggemann, Michael (2019): Scientific networks on Twitter: Analyzing scientists’ interactions in the climate change debate. In Public Understanding of Science, 696-712. Available online at

Opportunity makes opinion leaders: Analyzing the role of first-hand information in opinion leadership in social media networks (2018)


Theorizing information flows is at the heart of traditional communication theories such as the two-step flow of communication and the concept of opinion leadership. Social media have fundamentally altered how information reaches people. This study examines opinion leadership in social media networks and argues that opinion leaders may no longer need to rely on information provided by the media if they have access to first-hand information. To test this assumption empirically, we used data from the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). Attendees of the conference had direct information about what was happening, which they were able to share live with their followers via social media. We used geo-located tweets to identify Twitter users who attended the COP21 summit. We then located these users in a data set of tweets that were collected based on the main conference hashtag (#COP21) and represent the wider social media debate on the conference. Our results, which are based on network analysis measures and Twitter user data, show that COP21 participants were more central actors compared to the average user in the network, and that they were more likely to have brokering positions. They were also more involved in the debate and received more attention from other users. We used automated content analysis to divide COP21 participants into different actor types and performed the analysis by actor group. The results show only minor differences across the actors and support the robustness of our analysis.

Walter, Stefanie; Brüggemann, Michael (2018): Opportunity makes opinion leaders. Analyzing the role of first-hand information in opinion leadership in social media networks. In Information, Communication & Society, pp. 1–21. Available online at

Post-normal journalism: Climate journalism and its changing contribution to an unsustainable debate (2017)


Deliberative public sphere theories ascribe an ‘epistemic dimension’ to public debates: they do not necessarily foster consensus, but rather an enhanced understanding among the participants of the debate through the exchange of opinions backed by justifications (Habermas 2006; Peters 2005). Public discourses provide a critical validation of issues of shared relevance. They are an important precondition for the sustainable evolution of society as a society without open debates becomes blind to the concerns of its citizens. This is why the sustainability of public debates is a major concern for society and for communication studies. Reality will always fall short of normative models of the public sphere (see e.g. Walter 2015), yet when issues become so polarized that an open debate among speakers from different backgrounds becomes impossible, this constitutes a problem for democracy. In the following study of journalism’s role in the climate debate, I will argue that we are witnessing the evolution of post-normal journalism that is fundamentally interpretive and characterized by the blurring of institutional boundaries between journalism, science and advocacy.

Brüggemann, Michael (2017): Post-normal journalism: Climate journalism and its changing contribution to an unsustainable debate. In Peter Berglez, Ulrika Olausson, Mart Ots (Eds.): What is Sustainable Journalism? Integrating the Environmental, Social, and Economic Challenges of Journalism. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 57–73. Available online at