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Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Is this another new disease?

Every now and then, there is an outbreak of the well known infection of telling journalists how to do their job. The latest flair up comes from The Academy of Medical Sciences which has just put out the report Identifying the environmental causes of disease.

According to the summary, this "sets out five key recommendations and offers guidelines for the wide range of stakeholders involved in generating, communicating and translating research into the environmental causes of disease into policy and practice". The academy set up the study "to address increasing scepticism amongst professionals and members of the public that had arisen when claims from one such study were so soon reversed by those of another".

Given the "public" angle in there, it is no surprise that the document deals with communication. That's why there is a separate section on how to get the message across to hacks. They dress this up as "Guidelines for science or medical writers and journalists".

That is their first mistake, science and medical writers aren't the source of most of the propblems. These happen when such stories fall into the hands of people who are not familiar with how science works.

There is also an interesting section "Communicating the findings from causal research". This makes the important point that when it comes to communication "the prime responsibility lies with the researcher to communicate accurately, clearly and fairly what the study set out to do, how it sought to accomplish its aims and how secure were the findings, as well as the confidence that can be placed on causal conclusions, and the generalisability of the conclusions to the population at large."

They weren't quite devoid of knowledgeable input when they wrote this. Along with lots of eminent professors and scientists there was one Dr Geoff Watts, FMedSci, Freelance Science and Medical Journalist.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Chinese science communicators build a network

With the country graduating more new scientists every year than any other country, Chinese science has always been worth watching. It is especially so now that the country has become the world's manufacturing powerhouse. It won't be long before it makes even bigger waves on the technology front, which is why anyone who can read Chinese will profit from a visit to the China Science Reporting Network.

The network describes itself as "a public welfare network composed of Chinese science media workers, scientists willing to communicate science to the public, and public information officers of science institutes and innovation-based industries".

The CSRN's "manifesto" could easily describe the work of the ABSW. "It is aimed at improving and enriching scientific news reporting; advancing the abilities of scientific journalism; and promoting the exchange between science and health journalists and between journalists, science community and innovation-based industries."

It might be a good port of call for any science writer planning a visit to China. Then again, much like the ABSW, CSRN is, as it says, "a voluntary network without regular office and staff".

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop

It looks more like an activity holiday, with campfire folk singing thrown in, but the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop certainly attract some eminent science hacks. They have now thrown open the doors for applications for next year's bash from 19 to 24 May.

Friday, 16 November 2007

AAAS - Mass Media Fellows

"Increasing public understanding of science and technology is a principal goal of AAAS, so it only makes sense that it recognizes the need for scientists who are well versed in communicating complex ideas to a general audience. Enter the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows program, which has thrived in this endeavor for more than 30 years."

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Twins across the water

The twinning programme created by the World Federation of Science Journalists has begun to bear fruit. Nadia El-Awady, President of Arab Science Journalists Association, has written a note on WFSJ News about a visit to Washington to attend the annual meeting of the US's National Association of Science Writers (NASW). "The visit was supported by a generous US$10,000 grant provided equally by NASW and CASW." That's the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.