Tonight I was checking my Twitter feed when I found this blog post on Nature Soapbox Science blog. Where it says that, at a Royal Institution debate about science and media
One of the questions that came up was whether reporters should read the scientific papers related to the story that they are covering.
Is that even a question?
Perhaps it’s me being naive, but I honestly thought that every professional science journalist (that is, someone who is devoted to write about science, and not just some random journalist who happens to have to write about science) had to have a science degree (and possibly some research experience). I couldn’t think someone could enter this job without being able to follow, at least generally, a scientific paper.
I am honestly scared that a serious conference, and then a Nature blog, no less, both feel this is a genuine question to be asked.
It’s true that most scientists do not read beyond their own discipline, but that’s exactly what should separate a potential science journalist from a normal scientist. A science journalist should be someone who enjoys reading papers from a lot of disciplines -that’s what the job is all about!
At least, reading and learning about multiple disciplines was one of the factors that led me to think I was suited to be no more a scientist but a potential science writer (in Italian, in case you wonder about my shoddy English): I was spending more time reading papers about entirely other stuff than work-related ones.
Yes, jargon can be a barrier between different disciplines -and surely if you give me a particle physics paper, my molecular biologist self can be confused. Still, again, a science journalist should be someone who knows a bit of every field, and if they meet some concept they do not know, they should do their best to learn it, at least roughly, before going on writing. Science writers are there to let people understand science: how can they explain to others if they do not understand it themselves?