Keywords: uncertainty; science; Covid-19; Western cultures; Critical Discourse Analysis
The novel coronavirus pandemic has impacted our world to an extent which is still difficult to assess. Scientific information is crucial, but researchers are still struggling to characterise this new pathogen and its related disease. Consequently, a great deal of uncertainty pervades any account of and response to the pandemic. However, despite being perceived as potentially detrimental to the authority of scientists, uncertainty is essential to the development of contemporary science and technology. Adopting a qualitative approach inspired by principles from Critical Discourse Analysis, this preliminary study focuses on linguistic representations of uncertainty in the public communication of two debated Covid-19-related topics – namely, the use of hydroxychloroquine-based treatments and the tests to find a coronavirus vaccine – by analysing a selection of news articles from four major UK and US sources. The analysis is discussed in relation to Western conceptions of science and uncertainty, arguing for a more culturally inclusive understanding of science and scientific uncertainty.