Thoughts inspired by Tim Radford at the Science Communication Conference 2011

This year’s Science Communication Conference focused on “Online Engagement”, and it would seem they could not have picked a better time, as social media is rapidly growing more acceptable as methods with which to communicate science. Not without due resistance of course. It does not surprise me that those who are used to pen and paper sometimes feel frustrated by online media: they do have very patchy coverage in terms of audience, and can sometimes be conceived as being hypocritical in naming themselves the ultimate democracy – without being available to everybody.

 

The keynote address was given by Tim Radford, former long-time science editor at the Guardian newspaper, freelance science journalist, and author of the Manifesto for Science Scribes. One of his main points was about how journalism is not what is used to be, but science has simplified it. “Some of the best reporting is now delivered by bloggers (,as is some of the worst).” Bearing in mind that nobody knew how to fly directly between London and New York in 1957, and now we can speak to others at those distances face-to-face in real-time, it is no wonder Radford proclaimed “I owe my life to science”.

 

Given the inter-dependence between science and the media, it is interesting to see the problems each party give to the other: scientists feeling that the media often wrongly portrays their actions and the media often seeing the need to only pull sensationalist stories from research. Radford interestingly made case in point: the science and the media need to court each other, be a little bit flirtatious. Perhaps this is what is needed, for the stakeholders in this working partnership to be a little bit kinder to each other, in order to produce the best results.

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