Face to face with the BBC

Today I was given a great insight into how the science department at the BBC works by Rachel Kerr who is the head of science communication in the North East.

One of the most surprising points about today’s lecture was the background of most people in science journalism. Rachel had an arts based education and this is apparently very typical. I wonder if this could be a reason for a lot of the science miscommunication in the media?

Throughout the BBC there is a policy to stay impartial about the information given out which leads to their articles being very fact based and informative. This in a way protects the BBC from any major blunders as they don’t express an opinion but they have still undergone criticism for being factually incorrect by websites such as http://wattsupwiththat.com/ who have pulled up several major news companies for bad science.

It would be interesting to see if more scientific journalists had an academic science back ground less blunders would be made. If this was the case more journalists would be able to understand the background research to ground breaking stories and may even read the original paper to see if they can find holes in trials and techniques.

A greater scientific understanding in journalism may even be able to stop very damaging incorrect science getting out, such as the study that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and Autism, which is still having negative effects today.

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3 Responses to Face to face with the BBC

  1. vanarm says:

    I agree with you, potentail science journalist? There needs to be a fine balance and fair represenations of groups be they scientists, activists, policy makers, government needs to be fair- easier said than done though sometimes!

  2. emilyvhampton says:

    I do agree with this in terms of it being wrong to project false science to the public but maybe the reason many of the journalists in the science field are from an arts background is becuase they don’t deep down have an interest for science like scientists do. This surely then allows them to choose and publish stories that the general public would want to know about much eaiser than a scientist who may be more attached and have more of a bias opinion on the story?

  3. verity01 says:

    That is definitely an interesting point. I think if someone enters a scientific writing career after a long career in research then they probably would have a bias towards areas they have conducted research in. However, I think if someone starts a career just after finishing university that is less likely to be the case because we stay fairly generalised at degree level, giving us enough knowledge to spot good papers with robust practical methods without having too much sway towards a specific area of research. I think scientists and non-scientists will have preferences in the kind of stories they find interesting, but I think you will find that in every field because we’re all individuals with different opinions, I don’t think having a more educated science background will change your interests.

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