World Federation of
Science Journalists

Science journals and science journalists in the same WEB boat

November 11, 2009 posted in Sci.Journalism
 “Scientists can bypass people like me and the media to reach the public directly.”
Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief, Nature

Budapest – 7 November 2009 – At the Budapest World Science Forum, Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of the journal Nature, described once more how the web is changing the media landscape, making it easier for scientists to speak directly to the public, sidestepping science journals as well as science journalists.

The advent of e-magazines and E-journals relayed by platforms like Kindle will happen within the next five years, but technologies like the iPhone are already here; there are 3.84 billion mobile phones for the total world population of 6.5 billion.

(source wikicommons, author uso19)

During a session dedicated to Science Communication, Philip Campbell stated his belief that there is a future for “value-added critical journalism”, but warned: “it is on the wane in some countries like the United States and the United Kingdom”. Like a majority of media managers and publishers, he is searching for a viable model that can financially sustain science journals: “It is hard to see”.

But, he reassured the international audience of representatives of science academies and science organizations participating in the second day of the 2009 World Science Forum. For scientists, the internet is a positive development: “You are now less dependent on good journalism”.

After listing the numerous science-related actors and issues guaranteeing that the science media scene will remain lively, he compared the credibility status of journalists and scientists. While highlighting the relatively low level of credibility journalists ‘enjoy’ with the public, he told the audience of scientists that they should at least be satisfied that scientists remain the most trusted people: “By and large scientists are trusted.”

Philip Campbell described how many scientists keep the blogosphere buzzing with individually maintained blogs and institutionally supported web sites on critical issues like Climate Central (Princeton) and Environment 360 (Yale University). They are complemented by collective blogs produced by teams of scientists like Cosmic Variance and Real Climate.

The editor-in-chief of Nature ended his presentation by urging scientific organizations to support researchers who are good at communicating. He lamented the diminishing share of the science budget going to support “libraries, which are letting down scientists”.

Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of archrival journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), followed and focused his presentation on urging academicians and scientists to become more actively involved in the affairs of the world.

The editor-in-chief of Science described how science education should become “active learning in groups with teachers as coach”.

Bruce Alberts insisted that the education pipeline producing PhDs and post-docs be made broader. He proposed that the educational system purposefully leak individuals who would go into teaching, government, science policy, and science journalism.

The editor-in-chief ended his presentation by promoting a globalization of science publishing. He gave Science as an example, showing a series of editorials written by scientists from outside the United States.


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