Science writing


This paper analyzes a new initiative in Brazil’s ‘Ciência Hoje’ magazine, called “Interactive Articles”, aimed at understanding how stakeholders relate to interactivity when writing a science communication article. We investigated participation in two platforms (magazine website and Facebook page) and interviewed the authors concerning the tool’s impact on their articles. Comments were examined using intensity analysis and content analysis, while interviews were analyzed with the collective subject discourse method. The study concluded that the novel initiative presented positive results in terms of interactivity and was regarded as public engagement and contextual model of science communication from the interviewed authors.


‘Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)’ is the neologism coined in reference to the pandemic disease currently affecting countries worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) was the international entity that coined this neologism in all its official languages, Arabic amongst them. However, in mass media, the most commonly used term is ‘coronavirus’, which is a meronymic denomination. This corpus-based case study aims at giving new insights into the creation of these neologisms in English and their equivalents in Arabic, and to the adequacy of the meronymic use of the term ‘coronavirus’ in the English and Arabic mass media.


Inequalities in scientific knowledge are the subject of increasing attention, so how factual science knowledge is measured, and any inconsistencies in said measurement, is extremely relevant to the field of science communication. Different operationalizations of factual science knowledge are used interchangeably in research, potentially resulting in artificially comparable knowledge levels among respondents. Here, we present data from an experiment embedded in an online survey conducted in the United States (N = 1,530) that examined the distribution of factual science knowledge responses on a 3- vs. 5-point response scale. Though the scale did not impact a summative knowledge index, significant differences emerged when knowledge items were analyzed individually or grouped based on whether the correct response was “true” or “false.” Our findings emphasize the necessity for communicators to consider the goals of knowledge assessment when making operationalization decisions.


Verbal probability phrases are often used in science communication to express estimated risks in words instead of numbers. In this study we look at how laypeople and statisticians interpret Dutch probability phrases that are regularly used in news articles. We found that there is a large variability in interpretations, even if the phrases are given in a neutral context. Also, statisticians do not agree on the interpretation of the phrases. We conclude that science communicators should be careful in using verbal probability expressions.


Can we really say what type of story has impact on us, and what type of story does not? Evidence suggests that we can. But we need to better understand the way that stories work on us, at a neural and empathetic level, and better understand the ways that the elements of stories, such as structure and metaphor work. By combining scientific research with the deeper wisdom of traditional storytelling we have both a deep knowledge married to scientific evidence — which can be very powerful tools for science communicators.


At a time when science is perceived to be under attack and our planet is facing severe challenges, the role of science journalism in taking on these challenges was a key theme of the 11th World Conference of Science Journalists. But, while policymakers and science leaders are urging journalists to help restore public trust in science, science journalists are concerned about the future viability of their profession in the face of faltering business models in mainstream media.


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.


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.


As a case study, we analyze an article of the psychiatrist Henrique Roxo published in 1942 in two publications directed to different publics. The communication of science was intended as part of Brazil's modernizing project of the epoch. Roxo's case reveals that the language used by science communicators, although sometimes of difficult apprehension, was part of an strategy of acknowledgment of the medical authority for the diagnosis and treatment of the mental illnesses.


BOOK: Olson, R. (2015). Houston, we have a narrative: Why science needs story. Chicago, U.S.A.: University of Chicago Press

Scientist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson makes a bold claim: scientists cannot adequately explain their own work. He attributes all of the issues facing science communication today ― false positives, an uninterested public, and unapproved grant proposals ― to scientists' lack of narrative intuition. Rather than turn to the humanities for help, Olson suggests scientists learn from the true masters of storytelling ― Hollywood filmmakers. His latest book examines the age-old divide between science and the humanities, as well as the new adversarial relationship between science and film, which he says can save science.


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