The big news this week was the mass exodus of bloggers from ScienceBlogs following the unveiling of a new PR blog by PepsiCo. Everyone and their monkey has blogged about this. Here are the best takes on the fracas, from my perspective:
- Why it matters: Martin Robbins very neatly sums up the major issues. PalMD was the first to speak out and subsequently clarified what the issues are; Brian Switek did the same. Journalists like Maryn McKenna and John Rennie talk about the conflict of interest issue from the perspective of people in the know. And Jennifer Ouellette discusses the wider implications of Pepsigate, and why it shows that blogging has come of age.
- What the press said: Mainstream journalistic outlets like the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, the Guardian and the Columbia Journalism Review, were clear in their criticism.
- What could have happened: Abel Pharmboy talks about how it could have gone down
- Why it still matters: David Dobbs was one of the first to leave and explains why he’s sticking with that move. At the Guardian, Gaia Vince spills the beans on how a column she wrote about the Bhopal disaster was axed by a SEED editor because Dow Chemicals (the company behind the disaster) was a potential advertiser. And Abel, myself and others clarify why deciding to stay at ScienceBlogs doesn’t say anything about the principles of individual bloggers.
It genuinely saddens me to see these events unfold, especially because I have many friends and colleagues who are being directly affected. From my experience, ScienceBlogs has always succeeded because of the passion of its bloggers and the community managers that assisted them. It has succeeded in spite of, rather than because of, the actions of upper management.
I urge you to please go and visit the various blogs, both those that left and those that stayed. There’s some truly fine stuff there and it deserves your support. Carl Zimmer is tracking the migrating bloggers and cites the problems involved in taking a stand and moving elsewhere. And Chris Clarke set up an RSS feed so you can follow all the dispersed bloggers.
Oh dear. That study I wrote about last week on longevity genes may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The paper seems to have severe problems with the methods – see Newsweek and Genetic Future for more. I’m a little chagrined that I covered this so positively – chalk it up to a failure of journalism and not contacting the right people…
When asked to show that they’re not telling lies about their products, an entire industry has a massive hissy fit. Apparently, gathering evidence is very difficult and if you make a claim with poor evidence, people reject it. The meanies.
“For more than 30 years, people of all ages have been dropping dead from sudden cardiac arrest in northern Yunnan.” The killer? A mushroom… Richard Stone reports in ScienceNews. You need a subscription but trust me, this is worth it.
For Nature News, Elie Dolgin braves Andrew Wakefield’s book launch and makes it out alive.
“At a speech at the Royal Institution today, science minister David Willetts revealed how the government plans to win over children and save British science,” says the Guardian. It involves launching dinosaurs into space. Or something.
This from New Scientist is a nice addition on the non-debate about whether tyrannosaurs were scavengers.
Ivan Oransky’s some kind of policy-changing superhero. Watch Embargo Watch strike a blow for sense
A great post by Christine Ottery on whether climate journalists should try to motivate people to act on climate change.
Nature News: Astronomers and conservationists team up to fight for the right to not have bright night lights.
This is how a village dies: Gaia Vince has some amazing frontline reporting on how climate change is affecting a Bolivian village, augmented by great photos.
Parasitic worms cause ant bellies to swell up, mimicking fruit so that they get eaten by birds. Wow. Just… wow. From Brian Switek.
“Mouse sleeps with scientist. Scientist thrilled,” says NPR.
A great post from Vaughan Bell about why neuroplasticity is a dirty, undefined word. I can feel my brain rewiring as I read it…
Your inner fish explains why you sometimes get haemorrhoids, according to Neil Shubin interviewed at NPR. Damn you, Tiktaalik!
The evolution of life in stop-motion graffiti. Even more amazing than it sounds.
No please tell me that you didn’t discover a gene that controls the sexual inclination of female mice and name it FucM… Oh wait, you did.
“The squid’s sexual agitation caught the researchers by surprise.” Yeah they all say that. Learn about the incredible sex organ of the deep-sea squid. And speaking of squid, some can use their jet propulsion to glide for several metres.
Monkeys use trees to catapault themselves out of Japanese laboratory. Fly my pretties, fly!
This is the “bionic handling assistant”. One step closer to Doctor Octopus…
The best science teacher ever tricks students into joining a NASA mission, covered at 80Beats.
An incredible shot of a launching space shuttle, as seen by skydivers.
You should know what this is. If you don’t, Google “Stanley Milgram”
Junk Charts – a blog where bad infographics go to die
The ABSW Science Writer awards are back after a two-year hiatus. I won the Best Newcomer award last year when a smaller version was run, but I had the honour of being on the judging panel this year. Here are the nominees
Frank Swain has released a small excerpt from his upcoming book Zombology, about zombies.
Jo Marchant discusses how journalists ran with a conspiracy story about King Tut’s replaced penis, which she debunked in her New Scientist blog.
A couple of nice pieces on the role of opinion in news. Michael Arrington at Techcrunch bemoans the tactics used to provide opinion without making it look like you’re doing so. “An added adjective here, an added paragraph there, just the right quote from a source and voilà, you’ve got yourself an opinion piece masked as a straight up unbiased piece of reporting.” Jay Rosen agrees: “The wise newsroom will trade polarity for plurality. Lose the binary, news people! Instead of two rigid poles—neutrality or ideology, news or opinion, reporter or blogger, adults or kids—I recommend a range of approaches that permit journalists to report what they know, say what they think, develop a point of view in interaction with events, and bid for the trust of users who have many more sources available to them. A plurality of permissible styles recognizes that trust is a puzzle unsolvable by a single system of signs.”