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Science - The Next Generation

Science and Human Dimension 11 May 2011

11 May 2011
Jesus College, Cambridge

Background and Overview

Lord Drayson, UK science minister, commissioned a report, Science and the Media – Securing the Future written by a group chaired by Fiona Fox, director of the Science Media Centre. The report drew on research conducted by Cardiff University journalism department. While being relatively optimistic, the findings warned of serious threats to the quality and independence of science reporting due to wider crises in the media. Major economic and institutional changes in the traditional print and broadcast media, not least circulation falls and the pressures of ratings, have added to the constraints under which journalists work at the best of times.

The results are heavier workloads, and shorter deadlines, leading to less scope to investigate and check facts; greater reliance on limited pools of news sources, a tendency to sensationalize and trivialize. Staff cuts, reductions in editorial space, a squeeze on editorial budgets have meant less opportunities for free-lancers and staff appointments. The new media appears to offer unprecedented scope for aspiring science journalists to be published, but does this make for reliable journalism or constitute a real potential for making a living?

Nevertheless, the impact of the science media (including medicine, technology) on society, the economy, and the environment, grows apace. High quality, responsible science reporting is crucial both to public understanding of a range of issues as well as the decisions of government.

Over the past two decades the Science and Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge, has convened conferences as a contribution to public understanding of science. Our aim has been to enhance the quality of the science media and to encourage scientists to participate in outreach to the public.

This one-day meeting on Wednesday May 11, 2011 (in association with City University Journalism School and BlueSci) brought together a group of young scientists to discuss the problems and constraints, the scope and potential, of careers in science journalism at a time of rapid media change and challenge. We took advice from Lord Martin Rees, Professor John Naughton, Roger Highfield, Peter Tallack, Lou Woodley, Philip Ball, and Clive Cookson. The structure of the meeting was designed to promote an exchange of viewpoints and a sharing of experiences. Each segment was be introduced briefly by two seasoned practitioners: followed by open-floor discussion. The proceedings will be available for dissemination to schools of journalism and the wider public.


Registration: 9.00-9.45am Prioress’s Room, Cloister Court, Jesus College

Introduction: 9.45am Upper Hall, Jesus College

Session 1: 10.00-10.50am: Prof John Naughton (OU and The Observer) and Lou Woodley (Nature)
Science Journalism in an Era of New Media: Opportunities and Challenges


Session 2: 11.30-12.30am: David Adam (Nature)
Popular Interest in Science: the Next “Big Stories”


Session 3: 1.45-2.45pm: Andrew Brown (The Guardian), Dennis Alexander (Faraday Institute)
Impact of Science Journalism on Culture and Society

Session 4: 2.45-3.45pm: Simon Singh (author), Adam Wishart (author and film maker)
Ethics and Science Media: Constraints and Dilemmas, Accuracy and Honesty


Session 5: 4.15-5.15pm: Peter Tallack (The Science Factory), Christopher Potter (author and publisher)
Prospects For Science Books: Markets, E-publishing, Academic versus Non-Academic