Saturday, July 12, 2008

Science writing not so bad after all

Much of what you read on RaisingIslands.com is science journalism.

So, what do the scientists themselves think of science journalism?

Not much, you might think.

But that would be wrong, according to a study whose results were published in the July 11 Science Magazine, under the title, Interactions with the mass media.”

“Our analysis shows that interactions between scientists and journalists are more frequent and smooth than previously thought,” wrote authors Hans Peter Peters, Dominique Brossard, Suzanne de Cheveign√©, Sharon Dunwoody, Monika Kallfass, Steve Miller and Shoji Tsuchida. They surveyed 1,354 researchers in several countries, including the U.S., Japan, Germany, England and France.

The scientists in this case were epidemiologists and stem cell researchers who had recently published material in peer-reviewed journals, and nearly 70 percent of them had had contact with journalists in the previous three years.

Almost half said their experience with the media was “mostly positive” and only 3 percent said it was “mostly negative.” The rest reported either neutral or balanced responses, the latter meaning there were both positive and negative things but that they balanced each other out.

The authors of the paper cite the same experience of RaisingIslands.com, which is that many folks in the scientific community have the perception that communication with journalists is a disaster zone. The authors of the paper concede that this is the common understanding. But it's one that needs to be gotten over, they said.

“Negative experiences with the media still dominate peer communication about science-media relations. On the basis of extensive survey data, we now challenge several of the negative impressions of science-media interactions that are still all too common,” they wrote.

© 2008 Jan W. TenBruggencate