Nine ways scientists demonstrate they don't understand journalism

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Ananyo Bhattacharya, the chief online editor of Nature, reviews nine persistent criticisms by scientists of journalists, and argues that the scientists are wrong. His article is probably more fun to read if you completely disagree with him, but more interesting if you agree. The gist is that scientists don't recognize science journalism's genre constraints and audience expectations. One can't expect journalists to faithfully cover in full detail one's research any more than one can expect the public to read one's books and publications. As a sample of his pointed wit, Ananyo takes it even further and says most scientists don't even read these:

Research papers contain all the caveats that are essential for a complete understanding of the science. They are also seldom read. Even by scientists.

Its not just that journalists can't include every caveat in a 750 word article.  In order to interest a more general public, journalists will use hyperbolic headlines and colorful quotes, imagine tabloid implications, quote other scientists who disagree, and occasionally make factual errors, even colossal gaffs of misunderstanding.  This is the price of educating non-scientists (and those readers who take further interest can look up the primary source material on their own.) I list the nine complaints of scientists below...if they are familiar to you, you can read Ananyo Bhattacharya's response to each at the UK Guardian.

The internet doesn't have word limits. Why do you?

Your headline is hyperbolic

Change my colourful quote at once!

Why did you emphasise the 'tabloid' implications of my work?

The story didn't contain this or that 'essential' caveat

You can't cover my work. I forbid it

How could you quote that person who disagrees with me? He's wrong!

The story contained an error or errors

Last modified Wed, 26 Jun, 2013 at 5:00