Don’t dumb me down

There’s a wonderful Bad Science column by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian all about media coverage of science and why media reports on science are uniformly horrible. Here’s an excerpt:

Science stories usually fall into three families: wacky stories, scare stories and “breakthrough” stories.

Goldacre provides a nearly complete taxonomy of the types of mass media reports on science that you are likely to find. There’s this mini-rant which should be framed and handed out to any scientist who is talking to a journalist:

Last month there was an interesting essay in the journal PLoS Medicine, about how most brand new research findings will turn out to be false. It predictably generated a small flurry of ecstatic pieces from humanities graduates in the media, along the lines of science is made-up, self-aggrandising, hegemony-maintaining, transient fad nonsense; and this is the perfect example of the parody hypothesis that we’ll see later. Scientists know how to read a paper. That’s what they do for a living: read papers, pick them apart, pull out what’s good and bad.

Scientists never said that tenuous small new findings were important headline news – journalists did.

There’s too much good stuff in the column to excerpt any more. Go read the whole thing!

Update: I just found out that Goldacre has his own blog at where he’s posted the article with space for reader coments.

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One Response to Don’t dumb me down

  1. martin g says:

    Wonderful piece . . .

    I’ve tried, but I couldn’t put it better myself.

    Readers might like to have a look at my tongue-in-cheek science tech mag

    where I take apart ironic science items on a daily basis . . .

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