Talk:Science journalism

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Peer Review of Jaworspk changes[edit]

The bullet points added under the Aim of Science Journalism cleaned the page up a lot. It is also great that you added links to the See Also section. Good additions! There are a few sentences that could be cleaned up in the Criticism section. One example is 'Currently, there are two possible definitions of risk communication. The first way is the dissemination of information about risks which is one way communication.' Based on how you start the second sentence, the first sentence should read 'there are two possible WAYS TO DEFINE risk communication.' Other than some nitpicky details, I think you did a great job with this page. The information you added gave a lot to it! — Preceding unsigned comment added by No2thdk (talkcontribs) 17:11, 26 April 2012 (UTC)


I am an English student at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. I am working on adding material to this article as a class assignment. I hope to share some knowledge and add some information the best I can! Jaworspk (talk) 16:47, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

"Newness" of science journalism[edit]

16.2.2006 from Germany: "relatively new" - if I had never heard this before, I might think it is a two-year-old thing. Science J. was certainly /perhaps appearing in the US before it came to Europe, anyway, - in our case here even the research on Science Journalism is relativly old. THIS boomed more than twanty years ago. Which is of course recent compared to par example Gutenberg, the one who invented the printing in our area.

Science journalism dates from at least from the 1930s, according to the National Association of Science Writers (disclosure: I am a member). As their [site notes]:
"In 1934, a dozen pioneering science reporters established the National Association of Science Writers at a meeting in New York. They wanted a forum in which to join forces to improve their craft and encourage conditions that promote good science writing."
The "relatively new" statement discussed by the commenter above is not referenced and appears to be inaccurate, so I have removed it from the article. Craig Hicks (talk) 23:02, 19 July 2009 (UTC)


I removed:

A sharp line should be drawn between scientific truth and truth in the news media. The first exist only in a specific context, relative to past research and discoveries, and are always subject to review and revision according to the scientific method. There are uncertainties associated with scientific discoveries, which can be accepted as working theories if, for instance, they have practical applications that help validate them. With this attitude, a scientist would say, "with the information we have today, it seems that...".

Probabilities are in principle not good sources of news, and consequently the scientific approach to "the truth" is usually not adopted in news media. Reporters hunt for commanding headlines, clear-cut statements, and certain information, although it may not be as certain as advertised. The journalist, in this role, acts as a translator of new scientific information into the reality of news media.

I agree with every word, but there are WP:NPOV issues here. Are there any good books we can quote on the mindlessness of science journalism? JFW | T@lk 12:51, 6 December 2005 (UTC)
Hi. This is my text, which I acutally paraphrased from an article (I have no memory of the source, though). Now that I look at, it does seem a bit POV, although it is not mindlessness that I had in mind, but a difference in intentions. Maybe reworking the text would suffice? I planned to add other sections, but have been having time constraints. Karol 20:12, 6 December 2005 (UTC)
It is completely mindless. Alarmist headlines and inaccurate, context-free reports. "Great cancer breakthrough" in mice studies, "cure for heart attacks found" in a monocellular layer, "eating bananas gives you cancer" if you eat 30 a day, "exhaust fumes linked to rare cancer" so why report it if the cancer is rare? Science journalism is completely irresponsible, creates fear in society and is fully unaccountable. Every time a big scare hits the papers the doctors can't leave their surgeries until late in the evenings. Compare MMR vaccine. Mindless. JFW | T@lk 21:07, 6 December 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, that's a point :) Karol 23:36, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

As a science journalist I strongly disagree. You shouldn't generalize from your pique at a few specific stories to the entire field.

There is a great diversity in science journalism. Some science journalism is written by PhD-level scientists for other scientists, some is written by people who are completely ignorant of basic science, and most falls in the middle.

While I agree with you that many news reports hype minor research, in my own reporting I try to scale back the hype and get quotes from other scientists who disagree. I distinguish clearly among in vitro studies, mouse studies, Phase I and II clincial trials, randomized controlled trials, case-controlled studies, evidence-based reviews and consensus reports. Not only should you report the latest research in JAMA, you should also report the editorial in JAMA that qualifies the latest research. I had an editor who forbid the use of "breakthrough" in his newsletter, and I never use the word myself.

The big cut in science journalism is between publications for professionals and publications for the general public. The professional publications are much better, because their readers have greater demands and can spot the mistakes. Most major peer-reviewed journals have news sections these days. Look at the news in Science, Nature, New Scientist, The Scientist, JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, BMJ, Lancet, Science News, Scientific American. Your charge is completely unfounded for them. I would challenge you to find an example from those publications (there are some but very few, and they are quickly corrected). See how *they* covered MMR.

It was Science News' coverage of the platypus genome sequence that read like a creationist tract, going on about how they were "less evolved" than humans and so on. I'm not sure that NEJM is even relevant to the discussion (I have a suspicion I could say the same of the Lancet and JAMA, but I do not subscribe to those): its "news" section is essentially non-existent. The NEJM is almost all peer-reviewed research written by researchers, not journalist's rehashings of research. All of that said, the above is irrelevant: a small smattering of journals that publish specifically for the scientifically interested and knowledgeable is a far cry from a response to the behavior of the overwhelming majority of the field, for whom the struck-out lines are entirely accurate. I still recall the evening news report on - oh no! - botulinum toxin confirmed to have been found in BoTox! Stay tuned for this possibly life-saving story! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:15, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

The daily news publications that I follow, like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, etc., do a good job if a science reporter is assigned to the story, but some newspapers take the philosophy that a good generalist reporter can cover anything, which sometimes works but sometimes gets the result that you describe.

Before you judge these news sources, you must state the standard or endpoint that you're going to judge them by. You can't just say, "I disagree with this story so it's bad journalism." What should science journalism do? Once again, there are many different answers depending on the publication and its audience.

You say you want them to report the uncertainties. Fair enough. These professional science publications certainly do report the uncertainties and diversity of professional opinion exactly as scientists see it. If you don't like the Evening Standard, read New Scientist and BMJ instead.

-- 20:57, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Call for reliable sources[edit]

Hello everyone. I'm going to be doing some research on this article because it clearly needs some more information and there is definitely clear research out there. Help with good references to search will be much appreciated. I added a line there already and will provide sources soon. Thanks AlanBarnet 06:06, 22 December 2006 (UTC)


they may have been scientists or medical doctors before becoming journalists

Yeah, I can see why someone would take such a severe pay cut. I call BS on this being a statistically relevant portion of science journalists. I call BS even on science journalists typically having any non-trivial scientific training.

Journalism tends to have a stronger bias towards truth

What does this even mean? That science has a stronger bias towards falsity?

-- (talk) 18:12, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

To your first point, here at least is one example of a science writer with a Ph.D. in biology (though she concedes having a Ph.D. is not necessary for being a science writer). —Angr 11:11, 8 October 2008 (UTC)

As a science journalist, it's actually pretty common nowdays for science journalists to be people with Ph.D.s. I don't have one, myself. I come from the journalism side of things (although I do have a B.S. -- LOL -- in anthropology). But I'm starting to feel like a minority among the former researchers and doctors. As it turns out, pay isn't the only motivator people have. If you'd rather be a writer, you'd rather be a writer. -- Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor at — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:43, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

New source[edit]

This recent article might be useful; the introduction section and bibliography both have some background on how research goes from labs, to press releases, to news associations:

rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 20:53, 30 May 2009 (UTC)

Needs editing[edit]

8.2.2011: The first two paragraphs read like translations from another language, contain strangely-worded assertions and are hard to follow:

"Science journalism is a branch of journalism that uses the art of reporting to convey information about science topics to a public forum. (Better: Science journalism conveys reporting about science to the public.) The communication of scientific knowledge through mass media requires a special relationship between the world of science and news media, which is still just beginning to form.(What does this even mean? Says who?)

Developing quickly is a new relationship between intercommunications, between scientists, and global communications, with a general target audience. (That's nice, but says who? And what does this even mean?) The new advantage for this comes for invitational marketing as opposed to traditional interruption marketing. (The source for this confusing salad of terms -- "invitational marketing" -- is a press release about fashion design)"

I would rewrite these two grafs as follows:

Science journalism conveys reporting about science to the public. The field typically involves interactions between scientists, journalists and the public, and is still evolving.

--Dan Vergano (talk) 21:57, 2 August 2011 (UTC) Dan Vergano (talk)

I've subbed in your suggstion.. Thanks, Pete Tillman (talk) 23:59, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Resources for the rewrite[edit]

  • Time for change in science journalism? by John Rennie, who thinks competition with internet blogs could stir science journalists in traditional media to correct systemic faults in science reporting.

More? TIA, Pete Tillman (talk) 03:07, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Improving Reporting on Science and Public Policy by Christine Russell ] - a 2006 survey of the decline in employment/sections in the field since 1990 - Dan Vergano (talk) 04:07, 8 May 2012 (UTC)

Working on a rewrite[edit]

In an effort to address the requests for this article to be "entirely rewritten," a few of us are volunteering to draft a full rewrite, which may end up being two or three times the length of what's here now. There are five of us at the moment. We all are or have been science journalists. If anyone else would like to contribute to this effort, please append a note to this talk page. DLC (talk) 01:50, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

I'm not a science journalist, but I read a lot of you guys' work & have been active on this page. Glad to see the pros taking an interest, happy to help out -- Pete Tillman (talk) 03:58, 13 April 2012 (UTC)


I think Science journalism#Chocolate hoax can be trimmed as there's a main John Bohannon#Misleading chocolate study. Fgnievinski (talk) 21:16, 23 June 2015 (UTC)