11 thoughts on “Classic science journalism”

  1. Off-topic:

    I see that someone has called you on your confusion over licensing terms for an image your uploaded. They are quite right. You cannot claim that image as a work of the US Government simply because it was not produced by a US Government employee in the course of their official duties.

    You also don’t seem able to claim the copyright as your own work because all you did was enter some parameters into a program. The actual rendering of the image was done by the program and any number of people can enter those same parameters so it wouldn’t seem that you could claim copyright protections on the resulting image. For example, if someone had typed in those same parameters prior to your doing so wouldn’t they be the rightful copyright owner in that case?

    The copyright status would seem to be tied to the owners and operators of the website which is the University of Maryland as far as I can see. Now they may be happy enough to grant you a suitable license to upload the image but claiming public domain based on US Government is clearly wrong in either case.

    [I find such issues dull, and am happy to leave them to those who care. PA’s redacted -W]


  2. You’ve been caught by a virus, William. Check how many times that’s been copied around the web by now.

    I liked this one a whole lot better (just recommended it to the RC folks)



    …. in an ideal world often the best people to write about science are people who work in that field, people who are working scientists. And what I’d really like to see is fewer science writers and more science editors.

    … If you ever … work on maybe a features desk in a newspaper, you’ll find that people who regard themselves as ‘features’ journalists really do email in some of the most appalling, disorganised bullshit, that then has to be fixed from top to bottom by the editors on the features desk- that happens in every publication. …

    What I think is bizarre is why do you bother having science writers? Why don’t you just have really good editors who can help people who work in a field to chorale their thoughts, to get a good structure to their piece, to express themselves clearly? Why not help them do that? ….

    … I think a really good model of this is Radio 4 science, cause Radio 4 does popular science better than pretty much anywhere else. If you listen to a Radio 4 science documentary about 70% of the words in it are spoken by the scientists …. Their words are edited down, they’re cut down, they’re reordered, they’re organised in presentable ways by the people who are producing the show. There are people there who are saying: “well I’m not sure the people quite get that, could you explain that maybe in another way?”….

    … for mainstream reporting and also for comments on science issues, I think scientists communicating themselves about their own field, but assisted by very able science editors could well be a much better model for science communication than science writers. I’m surprised by how resistant science writers are to that idea.

    …. I think you can allay a lot of the concerns if you say well, you know, you’re writing the article. There’s a lot less to be scared of in that case.

    ——-end excerpt——-

    This I think is a lot more useful comment than that viral thing.

    [Useful maybe but not nearly as funny. The grauniad was taking the piss out of itself, which I liked. R4 is good, I agree. They interviewed me once -W]


  3. Just to note, Hank, that Radio 4 runs plenty of garbage, as with Harrabin’s recent excursion. Broadly, they seem to have swallowed the “climategate” and Hartwell memes whole.

    But science journalism has just taken a giant step forward, with a Nurture editor deciding that there’s a limit to how much obtuse cr*p one should put up with from RP Sr. The latter is of course whining about it all over the internet. See WTF for the details if you have the stomach.


  4. Steve: interesting comment about that Harrabin programme. i got the same basic impression as you did from the trailers, but a couple of course-mates who drifted into climatology/GW mitigation were raving about it. did you actually get round to listening to it?


  5. Magnificent as Robbins article is, its sad to think that the normal producers of such drek (including the Guardian) are simply going carry on in the same way. Although it does give us the perfect description of such articles – a ‘Robbins’.

    Now can someone do the same thing for the R4’s ‘Today’ Programme? They seem to think along much the same lines, but with James Naughtie getting caught up in his own alternative ignorant reality. However, there was a treat on todays programme when Oliver James rained (thats the polite term) all over the parade of the Prof. desperately try to spin a minor finding about ADD into a big story. I might not always like Oliver James, but it was wonderful to hear someone just torpedo the story – more please!

    BTW – the Harribin programmes were pretty rubbish. Its as if he wanted to highlight ever tiny problem to show just how ‘fair’ he was. How about a programme about climate denial – no, didn’t think so….


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