Monday, 27 September 2010

Recommended: How science is reported

Martin Robbins has written an excellent parody of the way scientific research is reported.

Anyone who has read one of the Express' front page 'miracle cure' stories will recognise it immediately:

In this paragraph I will state the main claim that the research makes, making appropriate use of "scare quotes" to ensure that it's clear that I have no opinion about this research whatsoever.

In this paragraph I will briefly (because no paragraph should be more than one line) state which existing scientific ideas this new research "challenges".

If the research is about a potential cure, or a solution to a problem, this paragraph will describe how it will raise hopes for a group of sufferers or victims.

This paragraph elaborates on the claim, adding weasel-words like "the scientists say" to shift responsibility for establishing the likely truth or accuracy of the research findings on to absolutely anybody else but me, the journalist.

The rest of his article is here.


  1. Martin Robbins is the editor of, where other authors tackle various scientific topics. I'd definitely recommend it.

  2. Rickroll'd by the Grauniad!!!

  3. I find it fascinating to compare an article like this: and this:

    Of course, the latter is really just plugging a book, but the difference between a paper's own science correspondant trying to make a promising piece of research he doesn't seem to understand sound like a major breakthrough while meeting an impossible deadline, and a freelancer and author who appears to be genuinely interested in the subject they're writing about, is starkly obvious.

  4. The comments on the article are brilliant!
    Only problems I have was the dig at the BBC when there are much worse targets available..and also the fact I was just rickrolled by the guardian.


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