Fragile and Conflicting Scientific Evidence in the Decision-making Process of the Initiative for Excellence and its Media Coverage

FQ participates in the DFG Priority Programme 1409 “Science and the General Public” with a project that intends to evaluate the conjunction of Science and the Media using the example of the German funding programme “Initiative for Excellence”. Within the Initiative for Excellence, the scientific community places a high significance on the independence of the decision-making process (decisions are based on board majority) as well as on the principle of scientific competence (based on Peer Review). The media, on the other hand, has employed unusually intensive strategies of political and investigative journalism in reporting about the Initiative for Excellence funding programme. At this junction, fragile scientific evidence and the assurance of a due process is confronted with newsworthiness and investigative curiosity of mass media reporting. Scientific and political commentaries together with journalistic criticism create a mélange with its own dynamic and with its own repercussions on the processes occurring within the two disciplines. In the background a long-term change process is arising during which on the one hand journalistic interest in science and the intensity of the reporting increases, but on the other hand, doubts on the assurance of evidence from a due process based on classical scientific procedures (Peer Review) surface – fueled by scientific scandals in recent years (for example, ethics debates in Medicine and Tobacco industries, forgery scandals and fraud cases). As a consequence, uncertainty in the scientific community has evolved on as to how and whether internal scientific publicity should be detached from mass media observation. The case of the funding programme “Initiative for Excellence” is a typical example where the fragility of scientific findings and the changing structure of public reasoning over science collide.


Prof. Dr. Stefan Hornbostel
iFQ – Institut für Forschungsinformation und Qualitätssicherung
Godesberger Allee 90
53175 Bonn

Forschungsschwerpunkte/-interessen (englisch /deutsch)
Wissenschaftsforschung, Bibliometrie, Elitensoziologie
Science Studies, Bibliometrics, Elite Sociology

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