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Use of the deficit model in a shared culture of argumentation: the case of foot and mouth science

Wright, Nick; Nerlich, Brigitte


Nick Wright

Brigitte Nerlich


The "deficit model" as an explanation of the public understanding of science has attracted sustained criticism. While acknowledging the limitations of the deficit model, we argue that researchers should not abandon all interest in exploring it. Our results suggest that the deficit model is an important part of a culture of argumentation shared by both scientists and members of the public, and drawn upon as explanations of the public understanding of science. We carried out discourse analysis of a focus group conducted at the height of the UK's Foot and Mouth Disease crisis. The focus of our analysis was a debate about the science behind the spread and control of the virus. The results point to the importance of the deficit model in the public understanding ofthe public understanding of science. The challenge is to look to other ways of describing the relation between science and society, while recognizing that the deficit model serves scientists, the public and others alike as a resource for political discourse.


Wright, N., & Nerlich, B. (2006). Use of the deficit model in a shared culture of argumentation: the case of foot and mouth science. Public Understanding of Science, 15(3), doi:10.1177/0963662506063017

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 3, 2005
Publication Date Jun 1, 2006
Deposit Date May 9, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 9, 2016
Journal Public Understanding of Science
Print ISSN 0963-6625
Electronic ISSN 0963-6625
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 3
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: