Maithri Sivaraman, MSc, BCBA
Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Keeping up with new treatments and studies related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and identifying reliable sources of information is a tremendous task for journalists. On the one hand, there is the creative challenge of making a story interesting and readable. On the other, there is the immense responsibility that entails being aware of what is at stake; these are not merely “stories” because important treatment decisions are likely to be made by families based on them. Given that the media is the most influential means of communicating to a large number of individuals, journalists could be among the greatest assets for promoting science-based treatments. It can be challenging figuring out where to start. Here are ten resources that can help fine-tune journalists’ reporting and critiquing relevant scientific studies.
- Poynter Institute – This organization is a Florida-based institute which offers webinars, free training courses, and other links to effective science journalism. An article on the essential questions to ask about scientific studies succinctly summarizes the methods of identifying the credibility of a study. The News University associated with Poynter also provides self-directed free courses for journalists interested in effective science journalism in the digital era.
- SciDev.Net – This nonprofit group is a news analysis organization that provides information about science and technology for equitable, sustainable development and poverty reduction. An online ‘How-To’ guide about reporting results from a scientific study is provided on the website. It emphasizes the need for a journalist to read the research paper, speak to a large number of experts and non-experts, and be responsible in reporting results. It also includes a final check-list of things to be done before publishing a report.
- The Open Notebook – This is a not-for profit organization which features an essential guide to science communication within today’s social media ecosystem. The website also offers advice on responsible journalism and features articles on pitching stories successfully for new journalists writing about science.
- Showcase – An initiative of the Council for Advancement of Science Writing (CASW), Showcase highlights award-winning science journalism. A list of comprehensive resources, including books, online guides that offer advice on reporting scientific studies, websites dedicated to discussing science journalism, and a list of fellowships providing journalists with training in specific areas of interest are provided.
- The Science Writer’s blog – This blog offers essays regarding science journalism and information about the Science Writer’s Handbook: Everything You need to Know to Pitch, Publish and Prosper in the digital age. The book provides information on developing an essay, researching reports for an essay, structuring an essay, and finding an audience.
- Australian Science and Media Centre – The organization offers tips on improving links between the media and scientific community and begins with addressing the prerequisites for a good science journalists’ repertoire. Key information offering advice on obtaining evidence, choosing sources and critiquing an expert’s study are provided. Additional tips on dealing with scientific uncertainty and peer-review are discussed as well.
- Journalists Resource – Based at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Journalist’s Resource examines news topics through a research lens. Given the abundance of research output available through digital technology world every day, the website provides tools to verify information gathered from social media or content gathered directly from the user. Additionally, The Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting that explores using databases and domain records, verifying data quality, and applying ethical principles to investigations is reviewed.
- Knight Science Journalism – Founded thirty years ago as an initiative from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this program seeks to nurture and enhance the ability of journalists from around the world to accurately document and illuminate the often complex intersection of science, technology, and human culture. The website offers a compilation of academic and other training resources for students and practicing journalists. It also provides a list of councils/societies for meeting other science journalists in a global forum.
- World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) – WFSJ is a not-for-profit organization that aims to develop awareness about science journalism internationally and aid media professionals to engage in incisive, impartial and accurate reporting. The website lists 51 national and international associations of science journalists across the world and provides information regarding upcoming science journalists’ conferences. It also outlines a range of resources including competitions for students of journalism, books, online courses and other websites that might be of interests to reporters.
- Science Literacy Project – The project that was launched in 1999 as an initiative of SoundVision Productions, underlines the need for a journalist to understand the science behind a story before reporting on it. In an attempt to help a journalist discern the evidence (or lack thereof) in complex scientific studies, the resources section on the website offers an extensive reading list on specific topics such as statistics, biology, physics and evolution. The online references throw light on the ethical codes that govern reporting of news and the use of accurate terminology when writing scientific stories.
Citation for this article:
Sivaraman, M. (2017). Resources for journalists ten websites supporting science journalism. Science in Autism Treatment, 14(4), 39-40.