Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018


Mar 06, 2018 Editorial
AI writing bots are about to revolutionise science journalism: we must shape how this is done

by Mico Tatalovic

The rise of artificial intelligence has recently led to bots writing real news stories about sports, finance and politics. As yet, bots have not turned their attention to science, and some people still mistakenly think science is too complex for bots to write about. In fact, a small number of insiders are now applying AI algorithms to summarise scientific research papers and automatically turn them into simple press releases and news stories. Could the science beat be next in line for automation, potentially making many science reporters --- and even editors --- superfluous to science communication through digital press? Meanwhile, the science journalism community remains largely unaware of these developments, and is not engaged in directing AI developments in ways that could enhance reporting.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018


Jan 16, 2018 Article
Alter egos: an exploration of the perspectives and identities of science comic creators

by Jordan Collver and Emma Weitkamp

While academic interest in science comics has been growing in recent years, the creators of these materials remain understudied. This research aimed to explore the experiences and views of science comic creators through the lens of science communication. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 science comic creators. Interviewees felt that the visual, narrative, permanent, and approachable qualities of comics made them particularly adept at explaining science and bringing it to new audiences. Science comic creators often had complex identities, occupying an ambiguous territory between `science' and `art', but were otherwise unconcerned with strict definitions. They emphasised the importance of balance between entertaining and informing, striving to create an engaging visual narrative without overcrowding it with facts or compromising scientific accuracy. This balancing act, and how they negotiate it, sheds light on what it means to be a science communicator operating in the space between entertainment and information/education.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018

Feb 06, 2018 Article
Appealing to different motivations in a message to recruit citizen scientists: results of a field experiment

by Tae Kyoung Lee, Kevin Crowston, Mahboobeh Harandi, Carsten Østerlund and Grant Miller

This study examines the relative efficacy of citizen science recruitment messages appealing to four motivations that were derived from previous research on motives for participation in citizen-science projects. We report on an experiment (N=36,513) that compared the response to email messages designed to appeal to these four motives for participation. We found that the messages appealing to the possibility of contributing to science and learning about science attracted more attention than did one about helping scientists but that one about helping scientists generated more initial contributions. Overall, the message about contributing to science resulted in the largest volume of contributions and joining a community, the lowest. The results should be informative to those managing citizen-science projects.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018

Mar 13, 2018 Article
Climate change news reporting in Pakistan: a qualitative analysis of environmental journalists and the barriers they face

by Asim Sharif and Fabien Medvecky

Climate change is a global risk as its causes and effects are not limited to national borders, but the risks and the responsibility are not evenly spread [Beck, 2009]. Pakistan is facing especially severe impacts in the form of disasters, floods, droughts, rising temperatures, cyclones and rising sea levels due to global emissions, despite its national emissions being nominal and accounting for only 0.46% of worldwide emissions [World Bank, 2018]. Ironically, the level of public awareness of climate change is low in Pakistan compared to not only advanced countries, but also to other countries in the South Asian region [Zaheer and Colom, 2013]. A contributing factor behind this is the communication gap between the media and the broader public. This study aims to explore the factors responsible for the limited coverage of climate change in the news media, leading to confusion, uncertainty, denial and low levels of climate change awareness in Pakistan. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with media professionals and the findings show that political, economic, social, cultural, technological and scientific factors influence the news coverage of climate change issues.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018


Jan 23, 2018 Essay
The potential of comics in science communication

by Matteo Farinella

Visual narratives, such as comics and animations, are becoming increasingly popular as a tool for science education and communication. Combining the benefits of visualization with powerful metaphors and character-driven narratives, comics have the potential to make scientific subjects more accessible and engaging for a wider audience. While many authors have experimented with this medium, empirical research on the effects of visual narratives in science communication remains scarce. This review summarizes the available evidence across disciplines, highlighting the cognitive mechanisms that may underlie the effects of visual narratives.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018

Book Reviews

Feb 13, 2018 Book Review
Science journalism by a journalist for journalists

by Andy Ridgway

This book is a beginners' guide to science journalism, explaining the 21st century journalistic process, from generating story ideas to creating multimedia content when the story's written, taking in research and writing structures along the way. While many of the chapters are introductory, the book also covers topics also likely to be of interest to more experienced writers, such as storytelling techniques and investigative journalism. Readers are introduced to important debates in the field, including the role that science journalism plays; whether it is a form of `infotainment', or whether its primary role is to hold scientists and the science industry to account. Taken as a whole, what the book does particularly well is to introduce prospective science writers to the judgements they need to make as reflective practitioners.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018

Feb 20, 2018 Book Review
A fascinating book about ethnography made public and the ethnography of publicization

by Karen Mogendorff

If Truth Be Told is a collection of essays on the politics of public ethnography and focuses on seasoned anthropologists' reflexive and critical engagement with public responses to their monographs. Fassin's primary purpose is to provide an ethnography of publicization. The book illuminates how public responses reflect and are affected by hegemonic sociopolitical realities and sociocultural practices and impact on the life and work of anthropologists. Of special interest is to what effect contributors take up different roles such as the role of expert to advocate for a more nuanced, non-hegemonic and contextualized understanding of marginalized people or specific groups.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018

Mar 20, 2018 Book Review
Not a scientist: how politicians mistake, misrepresent, and utterly mangle science

by Zachary Kizer

Science permeates nearly every facet of human life and civilization. However, in an age of media oversaturation, it has been increasingly easier for pseudoscientific information to be disseminated among the masses, especially by those with a political agenda. In his book, ‘Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science’, author Dave Levitan creates a guidebook for spotting and debunking unscientific ideas in the political sphere, a vital tool in the Information Age.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018

Conference Reviews

Feb 27, 2018 Conference Review
WCSJ2017: a bridge to the developing world

by Paula Leighton

The 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (San Francisco, U.S.A., 26–30 October 2017) was the most successful to date in terms of participants and probably the one with the largest presence of journalists from the developing world among its attendees and speakers. In agreement with the times, its themes were marked by ethical dilemmas in the communication of science, fake news and climate change, among others.

Volume 17 • Issue 01 • 2018

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