Tag Archives: Science journalism

New Scientist leads print categories for ABSW science journalism award

The New Scientist leads the shortlist for this year’s Association of Science Writers’ Awards.

The awards, organised by the Association of British Science Writers, are divided into four categories: Best news item; best feature, best scripted/edited television programme or online video; best investigative journalism, and best newcomer.

The ABSW has also added a new radio or podcast prize this year, sponsored by the Royal Society.

New Scientist holds two out of the three nominations in both the news and feature categories. Freelancer Shaoni Bhattacharya is nominated for ‘Tracking the Rhino Killers’ and New Scientist staff reporter Jessica Hamzelou is nominated for ‘Too Young to Know Better’. They will compete against the Independent’s science editor Steve Connor, who is nominated for ‘Fabricated Quote Used to Discredit Climate Scientist’.

Bhattacharya is also nominated in the feature category for ‘Murder in the Bat Cave’, published in New Scientist. She will go up against the magazine’s Brussels correspondent Debora McKenzie, nominated for ‘Living in Denial: Why sensible people reject the truth’, and David Adam for ‘The Hottest Year’, published in Nature magazine.

Another New Scientist reporter, Linda Geddes is nominated in the investigative category for ‘Between Prison and Freedom’, and the magazine’s careers editor Jessica Griggs is nominated for best newcomer.

Geddes will compete for the investigative prize against a team entry from freelancer Philip Carter and British Medical Journal assistant editor Deborah Cohen, and freelancer Fred Pearce for a climate change article in the Guardian.

See the full shortlist at this link.

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The Guardian launches science blogs network

The Guardian is launching a new science blogs network to get readers discussing and debating all aspects of the science world, from palaeontology to extraterrestrial life.

This is another step in the Guardian’s strategy to set up partnerships with bloggers, following in the footsteps of its recently launched law network.

The science network will comprise of four regular bloggers sharing their expertise on the latest in evolution and ecology, politics and campaigns, skepticism and particle physics. A fifth blog will act as a window into other discussions going on in the science world and will also host the Guardian’s first science blog festival.

The festival will showcase a new blogger every day and aims to put newbies at ease by offering lots of new places to start reading. The web world is buzzing with thousands of science enthusiasts sharing their knowledge and thoughts, but it can be very overwhelming for those not familiar with it, explains the introductory post from Alok Jha, a science and environment correspondent at the Guardian.

Readers can also share any posts that especially excite (or infuriate) them by using the Guardian’s WordPress plugin that allows bloggers to republish articles on their own sites.

Gimpyblog: A question of embargoes and science journalism

Embargoes on abstracts and publications from scientific conferences, in this case:

Journalists might not see the fuss here but scientific conferences are usually considered private events with great care taken over the ownership of data and the willingness of researchers to release it prior to publication.  Conference abstracts are often useful as they allow different groups of researchers to see if anyone in their field is following the same lines of enquiry as them so collaborations can be arranged, if these were to retreat behind security measures then it would make things a little bit more difficult for everybody.

Gimpyblog begins this debate of the purpose and sanctity of embargoes in journalism following accusations of embargo breaking against Sunday Times journalist Jonathan Leake – and posts defending his actions. You can read the back story here on Roy Greenslade’s blog, but it’s worth reading the comments on Gimpyblog’s post about the role of embargoes in science journalism and beyond.

Full post at this link…

Complaint to PCC raises further criticism of Sunday Times’ environment coverage

According to a report in the Guardian yesterday, Simon Lewis, an expert on tropical on forests at the University of Leeds, has filed a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about an article in the Sunday Times.

The article published on 31 January, which alleged that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had made mistakes in a report on global warming, was “inaccurate, misleading and distorted”, according to Lewis, who says he contacted the newspaper before the story was published and has since written letters and tried to leave comments on the website.

Questions have been raised by several bloggers over the Sunday Times’ environmental coverage – particularly following reports that the title had been banned from receive pre-publication releases from some scientific journals for breaking embargoes.

The article at the heart of Lewis’ complaint and those that resulted in bans for the Sunday Times from PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) and JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) were written by Jonathan Leake, who recently responded on blog Embargo Watch, saying he was unconcerned about the bans:

As you can see, these press officers have claimed they have banned us from their embargo system but this is rather misleading because we have a policy of not signing up to these embargo systems. Since we are not part of them we can hardly be banned. The press officers in question do know our position and I would suggest their statements are knowingly misleading.

Not Exactly Rocket Science: The new ecosystem of science journalism

British science writer Ed Yong takes a long look at how science journalism and writing is changing and adapting to digital journalism and online publishing, from changes to the “inverted pyramid structure” of reporting and the rise of amateur writers, who may themselves be experts in a scientific field.

Here’s how Yong thinks science journalism could benefit from a growth in blogging and “amateur” science writing:

It is inevitable that more and more people are doing the job that journalists do; perhaps it is best to see them not as interlopers, but as trainees. Gradually, the business of discussing new papers (mere stenography to some) could be handed over, freeing time and resources for professionals to do what they should be best at – synthesising entire fields, finding and investigating deeper stories, and considering the broader place of science in society. If this could be achieved effectively, it might also allow the mainstream media to continue to employ journalists who are professional writers first, and experts second.

Full post at this link…

Science journalism needs fewer science writers and more editors, says Goldacre

Science journalists were subject to intense criticism in a debate between science minister Lord Drayson and Bad Science blogger Ben Goldacre on Wednesday night.

Current standards of ‘dodgy coverage’ are having an impact on public health, argued Goldacre, who is a medical doctor and writes weekly for the Guardian exposing inaccurate science journalism.

He attributed the problem to a ‘systems failure’ within media organisations, with editors making ill-informed decisions about how science stories are covered.

“We should get scientists to talk about stuff in their own way. There should be fewer science writers and more editors shaping academic ideas,” he said.

Goldacre also encouraged academics to promote good public engagement from their own departments and to start their own blogs. His key criticisms against the mainstream press were a reliance on press releases and a failure to engage with the ‘nerds’, he said.

“There is nothing out there for the people who did biochemistry 10 years ago and now work in middle management at Marks & Spencer,” he said.

But Drayson insisted there was an ‘admirable and improving standard’ of science reporting in the mainstream press, saying that Dr Goldacre’s criticism ‘risks undermining’ the trust between the academic community and the media.

Sensationalism was not necessarily a bad quality in science stories, Drayson added.

“The very nature of the media means that to get that communication, it has to cut through the noise. But sensationalism must be accurate and based upon good science – I don’t see them as mutually exclusive,” he said.

Drayson also countered criticism levelled against journalists interpreting academic ideas and particularly praised specialist writers: “It’s very important for us to support our journalists within their media organisations and recognise when they are doing a good job. They are vital to the general public and we need to have this access.”

Drayson refused to be drawn when the audience raised the issue of libel laws as a barrier to investigative science journalism.

After concluding the debate, however, he did tweet his e-mail address to help those who feel misrepresented by the media.

Shona Ghosh is a freelance journalist. She blogs at http://shonaghosh.com/.

New science journalism MA at City University aims to make students ‘critical consumers of scientific information’

The accuracy and standard of science journalism in the UK is increasingly scrutinised online – just take a look at the Bad Science blog network for evidence of that. How can journalists become better equipped to report science? Would more specialised journalistic training help?

A new MA in science journalism at City University in London is designed in response to a ‘rapidly expanding vein of journalism,’ according to the course outline. During the course, a result of ‘consultation with the UK’s leading science journalists and scientists,’ students will be taught to be ‘critical consumers of scientific information’.

The course will be led by Connie St. Louis, a former BBC science journalist. Potential students are promised ‘a range of opportunities’ to report on science, health, environment, technology and food.