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Goldacre and Drayson live debate at 7pm: Science reporting – is it good for you?

September 16th, 2009Posted by in Events, Journalism

Cast your minds back a couple of months: Lord Drayson, the UK’s science minister, proclaimed that British science journalism was in a pretty good state.

Drayson said the days when science was blighted by a press interested only in ‘scare stories’ are over,’ Times Higher Education (THE) reported in July 2009.

Most coverage of science by the media is now balanced, accurate and engaging, Lord Drayson argued, in a debate at the World Conference of Science Journalists.

But not everyone agreed. After Ben Goldacre – Guardian columnist, BadScience blogger/author and medical doctor – aired his conflicting opinion on Twitter, a public discussion was arranged by the Royal Institution. And tonight’s the night. If you haven’t got a ticket, it’s too late (it sold out in 90 minutes, Press Gazette noted) but you can watch the live video here on the THE website:

And follow THE on Twitter here:

You can also listen to the pair on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme at this link:

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  • Pragmatist

    Great stuff, I was glued to my TV, err, PC!
    I think that there was some convergence of opinion in this discussion which constitutes that each influenced the other.
    I think that Drayson disclosed an undesirable trait of governance early on in revealing a willingness, intent perhaps, to pander too much to commercial interests.
    I like Ben a lot, ‘Bad Science’ may be a book that will achieve a historical significance. Though Ben is not without his flaws, which he himself acknowledged, “I hope one day I am sufficiently grown up to say something like that”, was one reply to Draysons eloquence when pressed by Simon Mayo on a sensitive area of government policy, Ben does and has raised issues about science in a wider sense than the topic for this debate.
    If Ben tempers some of his views and prepares to be more balanced by not solely focusing upon weakness there is every possibility that a future government will recognise his worth.
    However, to make serious progress for humankind there must be recognition that debate about science, information economies, monetary economies, and natural economies must expand from this beginning debating coverage in the media.

    Online editions of newspapers are considerably more interesting than their printed editions by virtue of user generated comment. Many comments trot out the same old text-book conditioning endemic in the state in which we find ourselves. A minority of users are suggesting alternate views and expressing concern for the future.

    I began with a distrust of Drayson and grew to appreciate him more. I began with favoritism towards Goldacre, acknowledged his value, but recognised his single mindedness for a weakness. I began with a healthy scepticism of journalism and retained that.

    Last nights debate did not distinguish between pure science and its application. Pure science needs to shed some of the corrupting influence of commercial interests. Reporting would be better for relying less upon commercial expediency. But above all there is substantial scope for improvement in the application of science as applied to the populations of whole nations and with particular concern over the management of chronic disease.

    Thank you for letting me shout at you.

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