My friend Philip Ball has written an excellent post on the difficulties of communication at the journalist/scientist interface (philipball.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/silence-of-geronotologists.html …). But Philip is being too modest in describing himself simply as a journalist. With his strong science background, and extraordinary breadth of knowledge, he puts most of us scientists in the shade.
But it is certainly true that many of his fellow journalists go for the headline-grabbing, often overstated, aspects of science, and equally true that this is a serious and ongoing problem. How can we avoid it?
My personal answer, which I have to admit has had only limited success so far, is for working scientists such as myself to focus on sharing what goes in inside science – the thoughts and interactions of the people concerned, rather than just the ideas themselves (even though these are what really fascinate me and most of my colleagues). This is what I have tried to do in my books, articles, broadcasts and posts – to show how scientists think, and go about their thinking. For myself, I usually do it by talking about how scientists think about the problems of life, from the mundane to the very serious. Other scientists may choose to it in other ways. We can’t replace journalists like Philip, nor should we wish to. But we can provide an atmosphere in which he and his colleagues can flourish – an atmosphere where real science is at the heart, rather than the hype and flim-flam that too often displaces it in the public’s perception.