100 articles – ‘Taking science journalism “upstream”‘

5 October 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Taking science journalism ‘upstream’ by Alice Bell

Science journalists struggle to develop and retain credibility with the public and science researchers. How journalists report scientific discoveries is central to the problem. Most news stories report the results presented in peer-reviewed journals but fail to put the results in context of the broader scientific process.   

Dr Alice Bell specialises in science communication at Imperial College, and believes science journalism should be taken ‘upstream’ – a term commonly used by science communicators – to show ‘more of science in the making’.

In this post that appeared on her blog on September 3, 2010, Bell encourages science journalists to write more stories on the early phases of research with a focus on scientist’s ‘ideas, worries and enthusiasms’. Bell admits ‘upstream journalism’ is not new – social media and blogging sites are already encouraging openness and interactions between scientists, science journals and the public.  

Bell’s post attracted a range of comments.  Mark Henderson,Science Editor at The Times , supports more reporting of early ideas and results, but says these stories are better suited to blog posts. Not surprisingly, arguments against upstream journalism included the risk of confusing the public with inconclusive results and the policy by journals not to publish results that have already been covered in the press. 

Until these issues are resolved, taking science upstream is likely to remain in the realm of bloggers.

Kate Scarff is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at La Trobe University and is part of upstart‘s editorial team.  You can follow her on Twitter: @katescarff

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