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Evaluating science journalism – with a Matrix!

March 18, 2010

“I know why you’re here, Neo. I know what you’ve been doing… why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You’re looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.”

How do you get the public to learn science from the media?

The answer is out there, Neo, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.

As another component of my independent study project, I’m looking at examples of science journalism from old media – sorry blogger-peeps – and judging them based on an evaluation matrix I made (I’d love any feedback on this thing).

The criteria for judging the articles is based on the journal articles I read for this project, which were mainly from the journal Science Communication and the journal Public Understanding of Science.

The reason I’m sticking to old media is because that’s the focus of my project – What is it we’ve been doing vs. What do science communication academics say we should be doing? I don’t think it’s possible to nail down what exactly the blogosphere is doing, and by the time anyone figures it out, it will probably change.

The articles I’m going to be looking at were those chosen for the 2009 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism awards, and articles which were self-selected by the people I interviewed.

I think this gives the biggest range of opinion; the opinion of a panel tied to the science industry, and people judging their own work.

Anyway, the winners of my little ranking scheme will be put in a “If you want more, read these too!” section at the end of my big feature. The idea is, if I somehow manage not to bore people to death with my story, they might get engaged and dig a little deeper.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2010 2:47 pm

    Hi, Colin.

    I like the matrix a lot — it covers useful categories, and I can see using something similar with students (I teach health science undergrads with careers heading toward clinical practice — the “matrix” also provides a narrative context for communicating with patients, though the use of analogy must be carefully constructed in clinical contexts).

    I was wondering if the first point (putting into familiar terms) can be extended to include publications with a pre-selected audience, but one which varies in scientific expertise? I came across an article following a link trail yesterday that I admired for adroitly “teaching” a bit of research process and statistics while addressing the issue in the title,The Link between Public Libraries and Early Reading Success ( — just in case my html didn’t work:-)). The article begins with a common scenario, leads the reader to a research-y way of expressing a question, then answers the question, moving neatly back and forth between science, statistics, and basic information. Does an article like this qualify as “science journalism”?

  2. March 18, 2010 7:14 pm

    Hi Colin,
    Just found out about your blog and interview project from your dad. It’s fantastic! Great work. Glad to hear you had a good placement at the Discovery Channel.
    A question: it appears that you are using a commercial WordPress theme. Why did you decide to do this; and, was it costly?
    I’m also on WordPress at — I’m not thrilled with the theme and hope to spend time at the end of term jazzing it up.
    Elizabeth Yates


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