Science needs communicators

Scientists themselves share part of the blame. Too often we write in guarded jargon that limits our audience to fellow experts in our speciality. This leaves the field open to snake oil salesmen such as Al Gore. He can then present wild but easily understandable assumptions as established facts. A journalist clearly has to make scientific results as broadly interesting and newsworthy as possible. That can often lead to such results being spun in a way that the scientists who actually produced them may view as inaccurate, over-hyped or an oversimplification. An example of this problem is Cholesterol, that great marketing device of food manufacturers. Some news outlets no longer have dedicated science journalists. As a result, science articles vary in quality from excellence to borderline incoherence. Even dedicated science journalists, however, do not always have the time or ability to read and digest the underlying publication. We scientists are the first step in the process. We need to get our act together. We need to recognize that press coverage is neither a distraction nor an unseemly display of ego but rather an essential part of maintaining an informed and scientifically literate public.

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