Being the only scientist in the family I never get to indulge much in talking about my work – they say it’s all too difficult to understand. So after listening to two non-scientific journalists explain the techniques behind broadcasting science in the media I’m learning to realise that in fact science doesn’t have to be complicated.
There are some great ways to jazz up science to make it appealing and interesting without losing the meaning behind it all. Pictures and snappy phrases always seem to be a hit but my favourite way is by comparing science to something people can relate to. The BBC illustrated this beautifully by choosing to describe brain activity as a light bulb and TV figures such as Brian Cox who just make science all the more attractive.
Or for some, anyway.
However, there is some criticism that science in the media can become misleading. Ben Goldacre, a Guardian journalist, has dedicated a whole blog to ‘Bad science’ and talks about how some newspapers contradict themselves week after week and that it’s all just too ‘dumbed down’.
So it seems portraying science in the media is much of a balancing act, if even an art form. Journalists don’t want to publish the nitty gritty science explanations but the take home message of what is important to the reader. Yet, some readers complain there’s not enough information to learn something new.
I guess one lesson I’ve learnt is that it’s hard to please all audiences.