Quickies: Science journalism, field work and periods, and more anti-trans bills

  • How journalists can help hold scientists accountable – “As various commentators have observed, there’s probably no field of journalism that’s less skeptical, less critical, less given to investigative work, and less independent of its sources than science reporting. At even the most respected publications, science journalists tend to position themselves as translators, churning the technical language of scientific papers into summaries that are accessible to the public.” From Alex.
  • Periods and fieldwork – “Field work can be the most exciting part of research science, but unfortunately there aren’t a lot of resources for adventurers when it comes to managing your period in oftentimes remote locations, which can lead to a lot of nervousness about your upcoming trip.”
  • After North Carolina: 9 states have 14 anti-trans bills in the works – “Opening the floor for this kind of transphobic debate only preys on people’s ignorant fears and perpetuates the kind of untrue stereotypes that have led to a pandemic of violence against trans people, particularly black trans women.”
  • The end of research in Wisconsin – “This past June, American academia went into an uproar over Gov. Scott Walker’s new budget in Wisconsin, which not only cut $250 million from higher education, but also severely weakened shared faculty governance and effectively destroyed professor tenure at state universities.”From Killyosaur.
  • Cute Animal Friday! Easter came early for these animals at the Symbio Wildlife Park.


Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. March 25, 2016 at 2:07 pm —

    Is anyone surprised? First he came for the unions, now education. You have to wonder what’s next.

  2. March 27, 2016 at 3:07 pm —

    Hmm. Not sure I would have “journalists” trying to hold “scientists” accountable. They need to clean their own house first. I mean.. seriously, the anti-oxidant craze would have never gotten off the ground had the initial “reporting” being cleared that a) it was a preliminary hypothesis, not an well understood theory, b) there was no actual facts, of any kind, at the time, to support one way or the other if it was true, and c) it would be decades before we knew one way or the other. Only.. other people, most of them quacks, ran with it, because it was reported, by journalists, as “actually known fact”, or are least, “well established as likely to be true”. Decades later, we have the original researcher saying, “They don’t do what I thought, things actually live longer if you remove even the ones they make themselves, but I don’t know what other effects that will have, so more research is needed to figure it out.”, and at least one study, on cancer, was shut down because giving the patients “anti-oxidants” actually accelerated the cancer growth, spread, and rate at which patients died in the study.

    So.. Who is going to hold the damn journalists, who, when its reported for use by other scientists bury it behind a pay wall, so people that need it can’t get at it, and when reported to the public, is written up, almost as often, with complete and utter disdain for understanding what they where just told, or desire to cross check with anyone else, to see if they got it right, as there is an actual attempt (never mind a success) at correctly reporting the facts of what the research has said?

    You can’t, just like any other sort of news, just report “facts” and not expect the damn facts to, mysteriously, change on you, when it turns out you where a) listening to an idiot/quack/fraud, or b) you didn’t understand what you where bloody reporting in the first place. And.. I would say that a good half of everything published for public consumption is so oversimplified, or just dead wrong, as to be useless. The rest.. given the sort of disaster that “science channels” on TV have become, for example, I would easily see the other half as being blind luck, instead of an intentional attempt to get their bloody facts right in the first place.

    But, heh.. What do I know. I am just the guy that, once in a while makes the mistake of buying a science mag, or going to one of the big “science” websites, and banging my head on the desk, while considering asking WTF? in the comments/letters to the editor, because their article is chock full of fallacies, gibberish, and/or the sort of breathless acceptance of what they “think” was said by the researcher, that you would think it was an interview with some star, about their new movie, instead of a serious attempt to present facts (never mind call any of them, or the joker they interviewed, in some cases, into any sort of question).

    Basically – if you don’t care about getting your own facts, in your own article, right, never mind, too often, to actually understand the science itself, so as to inform the public, rather than confuse them, then how do you plan to be the guy “responsible” for making sure the scientists themselves are being factually accurate?

    But, this seems to be the modern problem of journalism in general. Its more important for the facts to be interesting, “news worthy”, profitable, and/or, in some cases, fit the publications own agenda, than have the article being published be a) based on an actual understanding of the subject, sufficient to report the facts right, or even b) contain any actual facts. And yet, we somehow expect that the result will be truthful, instead of exaggerated, confused, or even completely wrong.

    They need to clean up their own house, before they start holding people, some of whom couldn’t even claim to be scientists, if the press didn’t just accept them as such, accountable for presenting bad information. When they can’t even, really, be sure the article they wrote isn’t a horribly distorted interpretation of the science in question, and they publish “everyone” as long as it sells, its hard to see them as sudden arbiters of, “Which ones are telling us the truth and reporting real facts.” After all, these same publications, in many cases, quite happily reported stupid BS from anti-vax articles, to the miracles of anti-oxidants, to gibberish screeds from paid shills of the climate denial stripe. And.. somehow they failed to detect, in too, too many cases, that these where all containing false information and, one could say, “facts which mysteriously changed later on”.

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