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Dec 01, 2014 Article
When quotes matter: impact of outside quotes in a science press release on news judgment

by Paige Brown Jarreau

Scientists often cite discrepancy between scientific values and news values as a primary factor in poor quality science reporting. The goal of this study was to understand how news values including conflict and controversy affect science communicators’ evaluation of press releases containing quotes from outside expert sources. Results of an online survey experiment suggest science communicators find a climate science press release with an outside expert quote that introduces controversy to be more newsworthy. However, when a science communicator attributes relatively high importance to reliability of facts as a guiding principle in story selection, this preference for controversy is reversed.

Volume 13 • Issue 04 • 2014

Mar 13, 2014 Article
The passive voice in scientific writing. The current norm in science journals

by Leong Ping Alvin

In contrast to past consensus, many authors now feel that the passive voice compromises the quality of scientific writing. However, studies involving scientific articles are rare. Using a corpus of 60 scientific research articles from six journals, this study examined the proportion of passives used, and the contexts and forms in which they occurred. The results revealed that about 30% of all clauses were passive clauses. The canonical form was most pervasive, followed by the bare passive; together, they constituted more than a quarter of all clauses analyzed. Passives were typically used in main clauses, followed by relative and adverbial clauses. Roughly 29% of all passives were located in the methodology section. Based on the results, the proportion of passives in scientific writing may stabilize at about 30%. It is unlikely to dramatically drop any further since the trend suggests that passives are still widely used in the methodology section.

Volume 13 • Issue 01 • 2014

Mar 16, 2012 Commentary
The future of science journalism in Ghana: evidence-based perspectives

by Bernard Appiah, Barbara Gastel, James N. Burdine and Leon H. Russell

Despite the boom in science journalism in developing countries, little is known about the views of reporters in Sub-Saharan Africa on the future of science journalism. This commentary, based on a recent survey of 151 Ghanaian journalists, focuses on the journalists' wishes for the future of science journalism in Ghana and on ways that the power of the Web can be harnessed to help achieve those wishes. Many of the surveyed journalists indicated that the inadequate access to contact information for scientific researchers was a barrier to science reporting. Most journalists (80.8%) indicated that they would like to increase the amount of science journalism in Ghana in the next decade. Two specifically mentioned that information and communication technology can help increase the amount of science journalism in the next decade. We believe that use of the Web can increase the quantity and quality of science journalism in Ghana, both by facilitating information gathering and by serving as a medium of science communication. Education of journalists regarding use of the Web will be important in this regard.

Volume 11 • Issue 01 • 2012

Feb 15, 2012 Article
Ad hominem arguments in the service of boundary work among climate scientists

by Lawrence Souder and Furrah Qureshi

Most accounts of an ideal scientific discourse proscribe ad hominem appeals as one way to distinguish it from public discourse. Because of their frequent use of ad hominem attacks, the Climategate email messages provoked strong criticisms of climate scientists and climate science. This study asks whether the distinction between public and scientific discourse holds in this case and thus whether the exclusion of ad hominem arguments from scientific discourse is valid. The method of analysis comes from the field of informal logic in which argument fallacies like the ad hominem are classified and assessed. The approach in this study focuses on a functional analysis of ad hominem—their uses rather than their classification. The analysis suggests three distinct functional uses of ad hominem remarks among the Climategate emails: (1) indirect, (2) tactical, and (3) meta-. Consistent with previous research on ad hominem arguments in both public and scientific discourse, these results reinforce the common opinion of their fallacious character. Only the remarks of the last type, the meta- ad hominem, seemed to be non-fallacious in that they might help to preempt the very use of ad hominem attacks in scientific discourse.

Volume 11 • Issue 01 • 2012

Mar 22, 2010 Book Review
The unsustainable Makers

by Adam Arvidsson

The Makers is the latest novel of the American science fiction writer, blogger and Silicon Valley intellectual Cory Doctorow. Set in the 2010s, the novel describes the possible impact of the present trend towards the migration of modes of production and organization that have emerged online into the sphere of material production. Called New Work, this movement is indebted to a new maker culture that attracts people into a kind of neo-artisan, high tech mode of production. The question is: can a corporate-funded New Work movement be sustainable? Doctorow seems to suggest that a capitalist economy of abundance is unsustainable because it tends to restrict the reach of its value flows to a privileged managerial elite.

Volume 9 • Issue 01 • 2010 • Special Issue

Jun 03, 2009 Article
Quality and integrity in scientific writing: prerequisites for quality in science communication

by Marie-Claude Roland

Standards and Good Practice guidelines provide explicit criteria for maintaining quality and integrity in science. But research practices are now openly questioned. I defend the idea that the tension between norms and practices in scientific writing must be addressed primarily by the scientific community if quality of the sources in the process of science communication is to be guaranteed. This paper provides evidence that scientific writing and researchers’writing practices do not reflect expected quality criteria. Evidence is based on four complementary analyses of: (i) communication manuals, journals’ recommendations to authors and the norms they convey (ii) feedback given by reviewers (ii) interviews and questionnaires (iv) researchers’ written productions and writing practices. I show that researchers’ writing and communication practices are very often in total contradiction with the norms and standards the scientific community has established. Unless researchers can improve and guarantee quality and integrity of the sources, the whole system of science communication will be threatened.

Volume 8 • Issue 02 • 2009

Sep 19, 2008 Article
Student science publishing: an exploratory study of undergraduate science research journals and popular science magazines in the US and Europe

by Mico Tatalovic

Science magazines have an important role in disseminating scientific knowledge into the public sphere and in discussing the broader scope affected by scientific research such as technology, ethics and politics. Student-run science magazines afford opportunities for future scientists, communicators, politicians and others to practice communicating science. The ability to translate ‘scientese’ into a jargon-free discussion is rarely easy: it requires practice, and student magazines may provide good practice ground for undergraduate and graduate science students wishing to improve their communication skills.

Volume 7 • Issue 03 • 2008

Mar 21, 2007 Commentary
Boom and bust in popular science

by Jon Turney

The obvious thing to say about popular science publishing in the last twenty years is that there has been a lot of it! That is important in itself. But it also means it is hazardous to offer general comment. The British journalist and commentator Bryan Appleyard recently wrote in the Sunday Times that the “hard stuff” in science was no longer attracting so many readers. Books answering many small questions about the world, or evoking a sense of wonder, do better - he reckons - than those which offer large certainties based on a scientific, or scientistic view of the world. That type, Appleyard claims, dominated the field for years after Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, with its promise of a theory of everything.

Volume 6 • Issue 01 • 2007

Mar 21, 2007 Book Review
Jaap Willems and Winfried Goepfert (eds.), Science and the power of TV, VU University press and Da Vinci Institute, Amsterdam, 2006

by Matteo Merzagora

We live in a period where new media develops at amazing speed: the case of Youtube, becoming in few months one of the most visited website in the world, or the incredibly fast diffusion of audio and video podcasting, or the acquired relevance and authoritativeness of blogs in the dissemination of scientific information, are paradigmatic. Yet, there is little doubt that old media such as traditional television remain a reference for the largest sector of the population. Indeed, all surveys show that when dealing with scientific information, television remains the most relevant medium by a large majority of European (although in eastern Europe, due to a more trustful reputation, radio has also a particularly relevant position, and the internet is gaining favour among younger audiences).

Volume 6 • Issue 01 • 2007

Mar 21, 2007 Commentary
Scientific publishing: some food for thought

by Vittorio Bo

Scientific publishing, here to be considered in a broader sense, as publishing of both specialised scientific journals and science popularisation works addressed to a wider audience, has been sailing for some years on troubled waters. To gather some possible food for thought is the purpose of this brief article.

Volume 6 • Issue 01 • 2007