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Thursday, 20 December 2007

King departs waving two fingers at the media

The outgoing chief scientific advisor to the Government, Sir David "Dave" King, clearly has not caught the spirit of the season. Not for him a cheery ho ho as he packed up his office and made the final trips in his much touted hybrid vehicle. Instead he slammed into the media for its coverage of scientific issues. The UK Press Gazette sums up the story in its item, Science chief: Press fixation with health risk stories is killing children.

UKPG got in and talked to Sir David on his final days in office. It tells us that Sir David accepts that "scientific reporting has “improved dramatically” in the seven years he has been chief scientist and praised the Mail, Today and others for their regular, reliable reporting. But he warned that “papers are more interested in reporting the risk” the public may face in science stories than “the truth”."

Given the targets in Sir David's sights – as well as praising the Today programme and the Daily Mail he complains about their treatment of GM foods and MMR – it is hard to disagree with him. With very few exceptions, Ben Goldacre in The Guardian for example, you won't find much media criticism of these outlets, or of any other media coverage of science, confirming the old adage that when it comes to the media dog does not eat dog.

Funnily enough, Sir David does not have any complaints about climate change and how the media covers it. Perhaps that is because it is difficult for "climate deniers" to get a hearing.