Science in the media, very nearly right

Yesterday evening I came across this article in the Guardian newspaper (well, their online version) on the trials of an HIV vaccine. The article is exceptionally clear and spells out what was done and why, and why the results are ambivalent. IT avoids jargon, but does explain some tricky concepts well. Overall it’s great, and the Guardian should be praised for publishing it.

But. There’s another issue here – this wasn’t written by journalists. It was written by a team from the British Medical Journal. Now the Guardian is still doing the right thing by giving people access to well written, informative and expert views on a tricky subject. My problem, perhaps inevitably with this, is that well, isn’t that what they employ the journalists to do? The best thing in the paper on science is not written by their own journalists. Oh.

Now as I have said before, I think that the Guardian has the best science section going in a major UK newspaper and anyone who gives Ben Goldace a platform is onto something good. But surely they can do better than this? There is another article on the same subject in the same section here, and it is less clear and certainly more emotive with stronger language (‘hope dashed’) and soem contradictions with the BMJ version. It’s certainly better than many I have seen, but still not great. I’ve long maintained that a great many researchers are great communicators (or at least capable of great communication) in addition to my regular potshots at many mainstream ‘science’ journalists and this I think rather proves my point.

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