“Not All Science News is Newsworthy” @deevybee @jimalkhalili #thelifescientific

I responded in two immediately previous posts to stories of (or about) mis-representation of science. Most directly in response to Jon Butterworth’s Guardian piece on science crying wolf (or not).

Listening to Dorothy Bishop this morning with Jim Al Khalili on BBC R4 The Life Scientific, we discover she has campaigned against over-hyped scientific reporting – the “Orwell Award for Scientific Journalism”. Ostensibly, for journalists mis-representing science “news”.

Of course, as Jim and Dorothy go on to discuss, it’s not just the journos and their editors egging them on with briefs designed to sell copy. The scientists themselves hype and mis-represent their findings, exaggerated further in press-releases from their institutions and of course. So many applications start with “impact statements” to justify work to managers and funders, who then want to see the evidence reported.

BUT the key point as Dorothy says scientists should not want to attract attention to all their potentially valuable results – not when it’s part of the scientific churn, work in progress or blue-sky research. Sure some potential, contingent work – eg in Jim’s quantum physics – is tremendously exciting to those close to being “in the know” – but that doesn’t make it newsworthy. ie scientists (and journalists) need to be sensitive to different sorts of science and scientific knowledge. Hear Hear.

[Post Note : Interesting take on Science 1.5 – internal publishing for wider science community reviews – before 2.0 “public”-ation of wider public significance.

This is not a journal publication, it’s a “preliminary” measurement, to be presented at conferences. Hence the 1.5 in my title – we are working on 2.0, which is intended for a paper. But it is public, and it is useful to put it out there so it can be discussed by physicists who are not on ATLAS. And it does tell us something new.

From John Butterworth in 2010, but linked in July 2015 LHC news. My sense is no science should make mainstream media news before it’s “Science 4.0”. John, a scientist first, journo second, is OK publishing 1.5, 2.0 stuff, and previews of 3.0 stuff, but journo’s – selling media – should keep out of it. Anyway, I was following-up the “minimum-bias” topic. One of my main scepticisms of LHC work is the “selection” of significant results being biased by what they’re looking for – potentially self-fulfilling.

[And in Minimum Bias 1.0] “But you can’t possibly be truly unbiased.” “This means that what you are measuring is only defined within a theory.”

Not sure if “minimum bias” is really addressing this issue. Interesting admission of selection bias in measurements and results, given the SAS #AllTrials “show me the evidence” campaign, No?]

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