Scientists and journalists need different things from science. Discuss. That was the topic up for discussion at a special event at the Royal Institution on Tuesday evening, curated by the Guardian’s Alok Jha.
Chair Dr Alice Bell, science communicator, academic and lecturer at Imperial and UCL was joined by panelists Dr Chris Chambers from the University of Cardiff’s School of Psychology, Dr Ananyo Bhattacharya, Chief Online Editor of Nature, freelance science journalist and blogger, Ed Yong, and the Head of the UK’s Science Media Centre, Fiona Fox. Framing the discussion online last week, Alok Jha had stated, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that the media, in general, could do a better job of reporting science”.
Alok proposed that there are good scientists, good journalists and a genuine desire to communicate science to the public but in many cases, good communication isn’t happening. Why not, and what can scientists and journalists do to improve the situation? The debate is not new – amongst many others, panelist Ananyo Bhattacharya last year wrote a series of three blog posts on the nature of science journalism and the distinction from science communication – and tonight’s event was specifically designed to get past theoretical, and often unproductive argument, and towards a set of practical actions which might be genuinely useful in changing things.
During the build up, Chris Chambers and colleagues set out a scientist’s view, while Ananyo Bhattacharya put forward the journalist’s point of view. Discussion was encouraged before and after the event using the Twitter hashtag #riscimedia and many other interested parties had their say, amongst them Matt Shipman, PIO at North Carolina State University, who has written a related seriesof three guest posts for Nature.com’s Soapbox Science blog on what scientists and journalists can expect from each other and the pitfalls and possibilities of being a non-expert writing on science.
With considerable debate having already occurred online, the discussion began at the RI: for those who missed it, we’ve created a Storify record of the event for you to follow along below. If you’d like to continue the conversation or add your feedback about the event, do leave a comment or get in touch.