30 April 2006

What is an expected discovery?

We shouldn't pick on these people, they were among many web sites to recycle the story about an Unexpected Plasmonic Discovery from NetWorlddirectory. The original press release even had it. Sure, there are some expected discoveries, like when you are seeking the source of the Nile. But in science, good research is all about finding the unexpected. The reason for mentioning things, apart from protecting the language, is that far too much research these days knows the answers before the experiment begins. That's not science: it is stamp collecting.

Can you detect bogus science articles?

ScienceDaily reports that "Scientists Devise Means To Test For Phony Technical Papers". How long, we wonder, before these bright persons come up with a way of spotting junk science articles in other places?

23 April 2006

Engineering Media Challenge

Engineers are sad souls. They do these wonderful things, and yet they have a planet sized chip on their shoulders about not being loved. They are trying to do something about this. A bunch of engineering institutions have launched the Engineering Media Challenge.

The money on offer, £35,000, is far from peanuts, but are they going for the right people? Writers are the bottom of the media food chain. Great ideas will sink without trace if the people who run the media outlets show no interest.

18 April 2006

Well-informed citizens consider CO2 storage to be acceptable

When a research project shows that, as the press relesase puts it, "Well-informed citizens consider CO2 storage to be acceptable," you have to ask yourself if the world has gone mad when people think there is nothing wrong with CO2 storage while getting all frothed up over nuclear waste.

The case against nuclear waste is that it lasts for thousands of years and might escape. The case against CO2 storage is, er, that it last for ever and might escape.

Big bother is watching you

Medical journalism is not the same as science journalism it certainly isn't the same as health journalism, which is where you can get to the fruit cake end of the spectrum. That's partly because medicine is more applied science than "real" science. Unlike engineering, though, which is mostly the applied side of the physical sciences, we don't take medicine for granted. We expect medics to get it wrong, but we trust the folks who builds bridges to know what they are doing.

A new web site, FIMDM Health News Review, promises to "support and encourage the ABCs of health journalism". To them ABC is accuracy, balance and completeness.

The first two are fine, but the last one smacks of a researcher who wants all the qualifying crap that makes their papers unreadable.

OK, so the medical media are under the spotlight, and about time too. But this could well be the usual stuff. Giving medical hacks a star rating really doesn't get you very far. What about the research they miss? Are reporters led by the nose, and the press releases? While this is no excuse, if the reports that appear in the newspaper do no more than reflect the stuff they were fed, then maybe fingers should point in different directions.