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Stem Cells and (Pseudo)Science: Discursive Aspects of the Stamina Case as Seen in Nature

Alessandra Vicentini


This study examines the Stamina case, one of the most controversial mediatic incidents of the last years in Italy, from an applied linguistic perspective. Through the analysis of a small corpus of texts published on the online version of Nature (Nature.com) between 2013 and 2014, it investigates how scientists, political and health institutions, the media, the patients and the public interact when faced with (pseudo)scientific news that may be relevant from a public health perspective. Based on selected sociological models of science communication (Bucchi 1998; Bucchi and Neresini 2008; Trench 2008; Hetland 2014; Metcalfe 2014; Neresini 2015), combined with methodological tools from critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1995, 2003; Eisenhart and Johnstone 2008; Wodak 2013), argumentation theory (van Eemeren et al. 2004), and making reference to science popularisation studies (Calsamiglia 2003; Garzone 2006), the qualitative analysis shows how the communication pattern of scientific news with public health relevance is changing. Power relations are on the move and so are the aims, the communicative strategies and the genres employed. These are in fact influenced by a growing interaction between bottom-up pressures (patients, families, the public, the media) and a topdown diffusion of information (scientists, political and healthcare institutions, the media) with the latter prevailing over the former. From the data collected, it seems crucial that the dissemination and popularisation of scientific issues should be further spread. Scientists must counter propaganda and hysteria on (social) media, as well as engage more directly with people (Hunter 2016) in order to oppose pseudoscience.


bioethics and pseudoscience; discourse analysis; online news discourse; public health; science popularisation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2018-001-vice


Lingue Culture Mediazioni - Languages Cultures Mediation
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (27/11/2013 n. 380)
Online ISSN 2421-0293 - Print ISSN 2284-1881

Dipartimento di Scienze della Mediazione Linguistica e di Studi Interculturali
Università degli Studi di Milano

Editors-in-Chief: Paola Catenaccio (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Giuliana Garzone (IULM, Milano)
Editorial Board: Marina Brambilla (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Maria Vittoria Calvi (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Gabriella Cartago (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Lidia Anna De Michelis (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Giovanni Garofalo (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) - Dino Gavinelli (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Antonella Ghersetti (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari) - Maria Grazia Guido (Università del Salento) - Elena Liverani (IULM, Milano) - Stefania Maci (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) - Andrea Maurizi (Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca) - Chiara Molinari (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Stefano Ondelli (Università degli Studi di Trieste) - Davide Papotti (Università degli Studi di Parma) - Francesca Santulli (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari) - Girolamo Tessuto (Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli) - Giovanni Turchetta (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Stefano Vicari (Università degli Studi di Genova)
International Scientific Committee: James Archibald (McGill University, Montreal) - Natalija G. Bragina (Institut Russkogo Jazyka im. A.S. Puškina; RSUH, Mosca) - Kristen Brustad (University of Texas at Austin) - Luciano Curreri (University of Liège) - Hugo de Burgh (University of Westminster) - Giuditta Caliendo (Université de Lille) - Giorgio Fabio Colombo (Nagoya University Graduate School of Law) - Daniel Dejica (Universitatea Politehnica Timisoara) - Anna De Fina (Georgetown University, USA) - Claudio Di Meola, (Sapienza Università di Roma) - Denis Ferraris (Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris) - Lawrence Grossberg (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) - Stephen Gundle (University of Warwick) - Décio de Alencar Guzmán (Universidade Federal do Pará, Belém,  Brasile) - Matthias Heinz (Universität Salzburg) - Rosina Márquez-Reiter (The Open University) - Samir Marzouki (Université de Manouba à Tunis) - (John McLeod, University of Leeds) - Estrella Montolío Durán (Universitat de Barcelona) - M'bare N'gom (Morgan State University, Baltimore) - Christiane Nord (Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences) - Daragh O'Connell (Cork University) - Roberto Perin (York University, Toronto) - Giovanni Rovere (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) - Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (University of Edinburgh) - Françoise Sabban (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris) - Kirk St.Amant (Louisiana Tech University, University of Limerick/University of Strasbourg) - Paul Sambre (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) - Srikant Sarangi (Aalborg University) - Junji Tsuchiya (Waseda University, Tokyo) - Xu Shi (Zhejiang University)
Section editors: Maria Matilde Benzoni, Università degli Studi di Milano (Modern history) - Paola Cotta Ramusino, Università degli Studi di Milano (Russian linguistics and translation) - Mario de Benedittis, Università degli Studi di Milano (Sociology) - Kim Grego Università degli Studi di Milano (English linguistics and translation) - Giovanna Mapelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (Spanish linguistics and translation) - Bettina Mottura, University of Milan (Chinese studies) - Mauro Giacomo Novelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (Contemporary Italian literature and culture) - Letizia Osti, Università degli Studi di Milano (Arab studies) - Maria Cristina Paganoni, Università degli Studi di Milano (English linguistics and translation) - Giuseppe Sergio, Università degli Studi di Milano (Italian linguistics) - Virginia Sica, Università degli Studi di Milano (Japanese studies)

Editor of LCM - The Series: Marie-Christine Jullion

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