Rebooting Science Journalism 2: Rebooting Harder

By Ed Yong | September 3, 2010 5:57 pm

Here’s a video of the panel I spoke on today. The occasion: ScienceOnline London 2010. The topic: rebooting science journalism in the age of the web, a sequel to a similar panel that I chaired at ScienceOnline 2010. The people on either side of me: super-bloggers David Dobbs, Alice Bell and Martin Robbins, from left to right. The accent: British, which apparently comes as a massive shock to anyone who hasn’t previously met me and isn’t from the UK.

I liked this session. Fewer journalists in the audience that at ScienceOnline 2010 so the Q&A had a different flavour to it, and there’s no duck sex. But I think the four of us worked well off each other and everyone makes excellent points. For my part, I decided to talk about (a) the opportunities that the web (and blogs in particular) provide for experimenting with science journalism, and (b) the pitfalls that we must recognise if we’re not to make the same old mistakes all over again.

And be sure to join me in ScienceOnline 2019 for Science Journalism: Are You Sure She’s Plugged Into the Mains?, then in ScienceOnline 2024 for Taking the Cover Off Science Journalism and Rubbing the Batteries Up and Down; and finally in ScienceOnline 2048 for Science Journalism Ain’t Movin’ Ma, Is She Sleepin’?


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Comments (2)

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Ed. I wonder…do you think there might be a disconnect between the science bloggers who (perhaps too often?) theorize and talk amongst themselves much like folks in academia, and the producers who are making things happen in terms of opening doors to public engagement in science and changing the way research gets done and policies are set? Both groups are necessary but the more I read science blog posts, the more I wonder if bloggers might benefit from taking the same pill we want scientists to swallow: more public engagement, more collaboration with groups outside of their inner circles, etc.
    There’s a real opportunity here for bloggers to move beyond theoretical chit-chat (though there is a place for that) over to the world of the “doers.” Or, move from being problem identifiers to problem solvers.
    This doesn’t apply to all science bloggers, by any means. But, for some, it wouldn’t be a far leap.

  2. Darlene, I think there’s validity in this, but my big bugbear is: when we’re thinking about being “problem solvers” rather than “problem identifiers”, we need to consider what problems individuals have set out to solve.

    For example, my goals are not to change the way research gets done or policies are set. I lack the experience, background and the time. My goals are to inspire people about science through the medium of good writing, as my own heroes like Attenborough did for me. I also have a goal to improve the quality of modern science journalism and I try and do this by (a) providing an example on this blog and (b) by talking at events and engaging with the science writing community on social media spaces. That goal is best served by collaborating *within* the field.

    I am happy for others to try loftier goals or to suggest ways in which I can contribute. In the other video from Science Online London 2010, someone asked “Is blogging the best way to help?” or words to that effect. My answer is yes… *for me*. Blogging (and writing, mroe generally) plays best to my strengths and allows me to make use of the very limited time I have (remember: I do a full-time job as well, so any time I’m doing this is time I’m not sleeping, getting to unwind, or spending time with my friends and family). If people had infinite time and skillsets, I’d tell them to try being science teachers first.

    So as far as I’m concerned, I *am* trying to solve a problem. If people would like me to solve a different problem, I am amenable to ideas. But I think that in these discussions, we have to be very careful about mapping our priorities onto those of others.


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