Led On Line
Presentazione - About us
Novita' - What's new
Lededizioni Home Page Ricerca - Search
Catalogo - Catalogue
Per contattarci - Contacts
Per gli Autori - For the Authors
Statistiche - Statistics
Cookie Policy
Privacy Policy

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

Full Text:



Allan, Stuart. 2002. Media, risk and science.

Buckingham/Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Bucchi, Massimiano. 1998. Science and the media: Alternative routes in scientific communication. London: Routledge.

Bucchi, Massimiano, and Federico Neresini. 2008. “Science and public participation”. In New Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, edited by Edward J. Hackett et al., 571-597. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Buzzi, Fabio, and Giacomo Tassi. 2014. “La supremazia dei giudici, la sudditanza della scienza medica e la cedevolezza della governance amministrativa e politica in materia di trattamenti sanitari impropriamente qualificati cine compassionevole”. Rivista Italiana di Medicina Legale (e del Diritto in campo sanitario) 2: 417-430.

Calsamiglia, Helena. 2003. “Popularization discourse”. Discourse Studies 5(2): 147-173.

Calsamiglia, Helena, and Carmen López Ferrero 2003, “Role and position of scientific voices: reported speech in the media”. Discourse Studies 5(2): 147-73.

Calsamiglia, Helena, and Teun A. van Dijk. 2004, “Popularisation discourse and knowledge about the genome”. Discourse and Society 15(4): 269-289.

Casella, Filomena, Marianna Longo, Pietro Ferrara, Raffaele Di Guida, and Raffaele Landi. 2013. The “Stamina case: Bioethical issues”, paper presented at the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics 9th World Conference “Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law”. Naples, Italy, November 19-21, 2013.

Catenaccio, Paola, Coleen Cotter, Mark De Smedt, et al. 2011. “Towards a linguistics of news production”. Journal of Pragmatics 43(7): 1843-52.

Dudo, Anthony. 2015. “Scientists, the media, and the public communication of science”. Sociology Compass 9 (9): 761-775.

Eisenhart, Christopher, and Barbara Johnstone. 2008. “Discourse Analysis and Rhetorical Studies”. In Rhetoric in Detail: Discourse Analyses of Rhetorical Talk and Text, edited by Christopher Eisenhart and Barbara Johnstone, 3-21. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Cotter, Coleen. 2010. Investigating the language of journalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eilks, Ingo, Jan Alexis Nielsen, and Avi Hofstein. 2014. “Learning About the Role and Function of Science in Public Debate as an Essential Component of Scientific Literacy”. In Topics and Trends in Current Science Education. Contributions from Science Education Research, edited by Catherine Bruguière, Andrée Tiberghien, Pierre Clément, vol 1, 85-100. Dordrecht: Springer.

Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London/New York: Longman.

Fairclough, Norman. 2003. Analysing Discourse. London: Routledge.

Fattori, Virginia. 2016. Caso Stamina tra emotività e scienza. Analisi della rappresentazione mediatica dei pazienti e dei loro familiari nella trasmissione televisiva Le Iene Show. Canterano: Aracne Editrice.

Fraser, Bruce. 2010. “Pragmatic Competence: the Case of Hedging”. In New Approaches to Hedging, edited by Gunther Kaltenböck, Wiltrud Mihatasch and Stefan Schneider, 15-34. Bingley: Emerald.

Garzone, Giuliana. 2006, Perspectives on ESP and popularisation. Milan: CUEM.

Gotti, Maurizio. 2005. Investigating Specialized Discourse. Bern: Peter Lang.

Gotti, Maurizio. 2014. “Reformulation and recontextualization in popularization discourse”. Ibérica 27: 15-34.

Gregory, Jane, and Steve Miller. 1998. Science in public communication, culture and credibility. Cambridge MA: Basic books.

Grundmann, Reiner. 2017. “The Problem of Expertise in Knowledge Societies”. Minerva 55(1): 25–48.

Haywood, Benjamin K. 2014. “A ‘Sense of Place’ in Public Participation in Scientific Research”. Science Education. 98(1): 64–83.

Henriksen, Ellen K., and Merethe Frøyland. 2000. “The contribution of museums to scientific literacy: views from audiences and museum professionals”, Public Understanding of Science 9: 393-415.

Hetland, Per. 2014. “Models in Science Communication: Formatting Public Engagement and Expertise”. Nordic Journal of Science and Technology Studies 2(2): 5-17.

Hunston, Susan, and Thompson Geoff. 2003. Evaluation in text. Authorial stance and the construction of discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Metcalfe, Jenni. 2014. The theory needed to support science communication practice, presented at “The 13th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference”, 5-8 May 2014, Salvador, Brazil.

Moirand, Sophie. 2003. “Communicative and Cognitive Dimensions of Discourse on Science in the French Mass Media”. Discourse Studies 5(2): 175-206.

Neresini, Federico. 2015. Scienza, Mass Media e Società, PDF presentation. Padua: University of Padua.

Nichols, Tom. 2017. The Death of Expertise. The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nisbet, Matthew C., and Scheufele A. Dietram. 2009. “What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions”. American Journal of Botany 96(1): 1767–1778.

Peters, Hans Peter. 2012. “Scientific sources and the mass media: Forms and consequences of medialization”. In The Sciences’ Media Connection – Public Communication and its Repercussions, edited by Simone Rödder, Martina Franzen, Peter Weingart, 217–239. Dordrecht: Springer.

Piga, Antonella. 2013. About patients, “inventors”, journalists, scientists amd IRBs (to say nothing of the institutions): CCSVI and MS, paper presented at the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics 9th World Conference “Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law”. Naples, Italy, November 19-21, 2013.

Roland, Marie-Claude. 2005. “The Changing Paradigm of Science Communication: Challenges for Researchers. From a ‘deficit’ model to a ‘democratic’ model”. In Communicating European research 2005. Proceedings of the Conference, Brussels, 14-15 November 2005, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium, edited by Michael Claessens, 63-67. Dordrecht. Springer.

Salager-Meyer, Françoise. 1994. “Hedges and Textual Communicative Function in Medical English Written Discourse”. English for Specific Purposes 13(2): 149-171.

Salager-Meyer, Françoise. 2006. Advances in medical discourse analysis: Oral and written contexts. Bern: Peter Lang.

Salter, Brian, Yinhua Zhou, and Saheli Datta. 2017. “Governing new global health-care markets: the case of stem cell treatments”. New Political Economy 1(22), 76-91.

Sarangi, Srikant, and Celia Roberts, eds. 1999. Talk, Work and Institutional Order: Discourse in Medical, Mediation and Management Settings. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Spalletta, Marica. 2015. “Medical Issues in Italian Journalism: The Journalistic Coverage of ‘Stamina’”. The International Journal of Communication and Health 5: 66-76.

Sturgis, Patrick, and Nick Allum. 2004. “Science in society: re-evaluating the deficit model of public attitudes”. Public Understanding of Science 13(1): 55-74.

Trench, Brian. 2008. “Towards an Analytical Framework of Science Communication Models”. In (eds.), Communicating science in social contexts: new models, new practices, edited by Donghong Cheng et al., 119-138. Dordrecht: Springer.

Tassi, Giacomo. 2013. From Bonifacio’s serum to Stamina method: the “overpromising” of alternative therapies, paper presented at the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics 9th World Conference “Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law”, Naples, Italy, November 19-21, 2013.

van Eemeren, Frans H., and Rob Grootendorst. 2004. A systematic theory of argumentation: The pragma-dialectical approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Author. 2016. “‘Vaccines don’t make your baby autistic’: Arguing in favour of vaccines in institutional healthcare communication”. In Argumentation and Reasoned Action: Proceedings of the First European Conference on Argumentation, Lisbon, 9-12 June 2015, edited by Mohammed D. and Lewinski M., Vol. 2, 999-1020. London: College Publications.

Author. Forthcoming 2018. “‘Meat gives you cancer’. The popularisation of scientific news with public health relevance”. Lingue e Linguaggi 25.

Wodak, Ruth, ed. 2013. Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage.

Wynn, James. 2017. Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science, and Public Engagement. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University Alabama Press.

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

Copyright (©) 2018 Alessandra Vicentini – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie


Call for papers Vol 11 (2024) No 1 - Discourses, Methods and Practices of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: Towards a Global Shared Framework
Edited by Dr. Paola Catenaccio (Università degli Studi di Milano) and Dr. Fadia Nordtveit (Springfield College)

Authors have to read through the Information for Authors and the Author guidelines carefully before beginning the submission process. 
Deadline for papers submission: January 15th, 2024
Request for revision following peer review: by April 15th, 2024
Final versione due by May 15th, 2024
Publication: by June 2024


Call for papers Vol 11 (2024) No 2: “The Language of War: Lexicon, Metaphor, Discourse”
Edited by Dr. Anna Anselmo (Università degli Studi di Ferrara), Prof. Kim Grego (Università degli Studi di Milano), and Prof. Andreas Musolff (University of East Anglia)

Authors have to read through the Information for Authors and the Author guidelines carefully before beginning the submission process.
Deadline for papers submission: June 10th, 2024
Request for revision following peer review: by September 10th, 2024
Final version due by October 10th, 2024
Publication: by December 2024


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 Lingue, Letterature, Culture e Mediazioni  
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) - 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 (Università degli Studi di Torino) - 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 (Università di Venezia Ca' Foscari) - Daniel Dejica (Universitatea Politehnica Timisoara) - Anna De Fina (Georgetown University, USA) - Claudio Di Meola, (Sapienza Università di Roma) - 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) - John McLeod (University of Leeds) - Estrella Montolío Durán (Universitat de Barcelona) - M'bare N'gom (Morgan State University, Baltimore) - 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 Managers: 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)

Referee List

© 2001 LED Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto