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Synthetic Biology in the Press - Media Portrayal in Sweden and Italy

Book Chapter
Mirko Ancillotti, Stefan Eriksson
In: Hagen K., Engelhard M., Toepfer G. (eds) Ambivalences of Creating Life. Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment. Springer
Publication year: 2015


Synthetic biology is a rapidly evolving field which potentially can change how we live in and understand the world. Given its potential impact it is important to inform and involve the public so that it gains a proper understanding of synthetic biology and is in a position to assess its future applications and implications. This study investigates through qualitative content analysis the synthetic biology press coverage in Sweden and Italy between 2009 and 2013. The three major newspapers of each country were considered a good example of what was offered to the public in a period which witnessed important scientific advancements of the field and consequent media resonance. The framing of the articles was analyzed in the light of the idea that mass media not only inform the public but also contribute to the shaping of ideas. Language was analysed and found to be generally adequate. The topics were presented in an overall positive and optimistic tone, which was reflected also in the benefits and risks envisioned. The two countries can be considered rather different in many social and cultural respects, yet besides a few differences (mainly quantitative), striking similarities were found, probably related to a marked dependence on the common sources of the articles and the lack of critical scrutiny on the behalf of the media.


  • Synthetic Biology
  • Public Engagement
  • Press Coverage