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Nature: Science journalism can be evidence-based but wrong


From an editorial in Nature:

There has been much gnashing of teeth in the science-journalism community this week, with the release of an infographic that claims to rate the best and worst sites for scientific news. According to the American Council on Science and Health, which helped to prepare the ranking, the field is in a shoddy state. “If journalism as a whole is bad (and it is),” says the council, “science journalism is even worse. Not only is it susceptible to the same sorts of biases that afflict regular journalism, but it is uniquely vulnerable to outrageous sensationalism”.

News aggregator RealClearScience, which also worked on the analysis, goes further: “Much of science reporting is a morass of ideologically driven junk science, hyped research, or thick, technical jargon that almost no one can understand”.

The judges’ criterion of evidence-based news is arguably problematic, as well. Many journalists could reasonably point to the reproducibility crisis in some scientific fields and ask — as funders and critics are increasingly asking — just how reliable some of that evidence truly is. More.

That said, science journalism is a peculiar field in that, unlike much journalism, it is usually more cheerleading than constructive criticism. Most fields grow better through constructive criticism. Voluntarily adopting a more critical stance would help a lot.

For example, could we please hear less of “I’m for science!”

O’Leary for News: So, you’re for science? So what? The guy who writes the local real estate column is for local real estate? What does that tell me about the value of listening to him in a specific situation? A bit of clear thinking about one’s role would go a long way in this business.

Nature has done some interesting editorials recently. They actually went after the mad bull of “diversity” (disconnected from achievement). Impressive, especially when campus crybullies now insist that we consider objectivity sexist (because they find shrieking at rallies more fun than science homework? No kidding… ).

Maybe Nature wants publicly funded science to survive.

See also: Science writing in an age when we ran out of pom poms to wave

Nature starts to talk honestly about diversity politics


Peer review “unscientific”: Tough words from editor of Nature

Listening to some science journalism today, one distracts oneself by watching Foghorn Leghorn hard at work:

I take little comfort in what appear to be "science culture might be taking a rational look at itself" stories. I think some of it is just trying to get ahead of a story, with no real changes in practice being considered. Yes, I'm a cynic. Andrewasauber
May 5, 2017
10:27 AM

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