Communicating robust science

This talk is co-hosted by the Oxford Martin School, University College & Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, and is a continuation of the Trinity Term Series ‘Science and Populism: from evidence to narrative’

How well do journalists treat science? Newspapers, radio and television are sometimes accused of oscillating indiscriminately between scare stories and a ‘gee whizz’ approach where everything is a breakthrough or miracle cure.

There is some truth in that view. But Clive Cookson, Science Editor of the FT, believes that science journalism today is better than ever – not so much because journalists have improved but because scientists are becoming more willing to talk to the media about their work.

His talk will include a history of science journalism since it emerged as a recognised field after World War Two, and a look at some of the recent science-related issues in the media, from climate change and genetically modified crops to AI and neurotechnology.

He’ll look at the sources of science stories in the media and analyse some of the factors that still cause poor reporting, including the pressures to sensationalise discoveries and the intrusion of politics into science coverage. How is the decline of traditional mainstream media and the rise of online coverage – and a powerful PR industry – affecting our output?