1. Lesson 3: Objective
Scientific news can be very complex and
science journalists need to convey accurate
information to their audience in a concise and
Inthis homework assignment, students will
examine how the communication of scientific
information between scientists and reporters can
later be misconstrued or misreported, and how
journalists and scientists can work together to
communicate more effectively.
2. What is a Science Journalist?
Science as a news topic is completely different
from sports, political or economic news, but it’s
often intertwined with one of the former.
Science news is not immediate and it cannot
be easily confirmed. So how can journalists
produce accurate, meaningful reports of
important scientific news without explicit data
or evidence to back it up?
Read the following:
Skeptical of Science – Columbia Journalism Review
3. In journalism, we’re taught to double-
check everything and that it’s usually a
better decision not to run a story than get
In science journalism, reports are
sometimes revolutionary and require
immediate publication, but in many
cases, some statistics, or even entire
discoveries, could be inaccurate or
4. Read the following:
Reuters.com – Particles Break Speed of Light
WashingtonPost.com – Revolution or Mistake?
SymmetryMagazine.com – Scientists still seek explanation
And consider these questions while reading:
How did the scientists who made the discovery report the accuracy
of the test? Were they skeptical of their own findings?
How did the journalists covering the story report the news of the
discovery? Were they skeptical of the scientific reports?
Can we really fault scientists for misreporting information that hasn’t
been extensively tested? Can we fault science journalists for
reporting unfounded news when it could potentially change scientific
5. According to Janet D. Stemwedel, of Scientific American, all scientists should
be able to present the following, if their work is credible:
Here’s my hypothesis.
Here’s what you’d expect to observe if the hypothesis is true.
Here, on the other hand, is what you’d expect to observe if
the hypothesis is false.
Here’s what we actually observed (and here are the steps we
took to control the other variables).
Here’s what we can say (and with what degree of certainty)
about the hypothesis in the light of these results.
Here’s the next study we’d like to do to be even more sure.
Here are the results of which we’re aware (published and
unpublished) that might undermine our findings.
Here’s how we have taken their criticisms (or implied
criticisms) seriously in evaluating our own results.
6. Credibility of Science News
After what you’ve just read, which news medium
do you think is the most reliable/accurate source
for science news?
Local Daily News – ___%
Social Media – ___%
Blogs – ___%
Major News Networks (i.e. Fox, CNN, MSNBC) –
Non-Profit/Non-Governmental Organizations – ___%
Government Press Releases – ___%
Magazines – ___%
7. Homework Assignment
Look for Science News websites and
publications online or at your local library. From
those, choose five scientific reports, articles, or
videos and evaluate each one using this New
York Times rubric. Consider the questions that
scientists should be able to answer when
publishing a report. You will turn in your five
evaluations next class.