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Stamp of approval for good science journalism

July 12, 2012

Chris Chambers, Petroc Sumner and Fred Boy of Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre in the UK have come up with some excellent suggestions for journalists who are writing science stories. In an article in The Guardian, Chambers and Sumner describe a kitemark system they developed in a submission to the Leveson inquiry. Their system is based on the following conditions which they say would indicate best practice for science news items:

(a) that the news report was written following direct communication with the original scientists, as opposed to being extracted second-hand from other news sources, i.e. the highly questionable practice of ‘churnalism’;
(b) that the main conclusions of the science, and any quotes, were checked with the source for accuracy prior to their inclusion (comment and critique would not have to be checked, but must be distinguished  clearly from statements made by the source);
(c) that the news story provides a web-link to the press release or original research paper (where possible), allowing the public to directly assess the accuracy of the story;
(d) that within a short period following publication of the news story, the original scientists are afforded the opportunity to comment on the article, with this comment appearing alongside the published article, and distinguished clearly from the general comments by readers that many online newspapers now allow.

These are great suggestions. Real science journalists won’t find them unreasonable, and probably already put most of them into operation. Let’s hope they become well-known amongst all those non-science journalists who get roped into doing science stories because there’s no one else on their paper to do it.

Hat-tip to

  1. Martin Lack permalink

    Thanks for the hat tip, Graham. That would sure put what you might call the “Misinformation Monkeys” (a.k.a. “Peddlers of Doubt”) like Brendan O’Neill, Melanie Phillips, Christopher Booker, and James Delingpole out of business.

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