A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Five reasons why so many UK environmental correspondents are poor on critical science.....

1. The problem of making science attractive in our schools and universities: 'Science dull and hard, pupils say' (BBC Online Education News, June 16):
"The survey reveals that 79% of pupils associated scientists with being clever. The children were asked if they would study science subjects if they were not compulsory. Some 45% said they would take biology, 32% chemistry, 29% physics and 19% combined science. But 16% would not choose any of them."

The idea that science is for the clever means that most children opt for subjects that are perceived to be far easier for attaining high exam grades (media studies and development studies, he adds cynically);

2. Good old British snobbery: science, despite being for the "clever", is still largely perceived as 'a trade'. Being a scientist is thus not on a par, for example, with being a lawyer or a merchant banker, an actor or a pop star, or even, paradoxically, with a doctor (a different type of 'scientist');

3. The perception that you will earn more as a manager of scientists (MBA, economics, or politics) than as a practising scientist or engineer;

4. (1) - (3) above lead to the inevitable outcome that most media Environmental Correspondents, including some Science Correspondents (though these do tend to be better), possess arts and humanities backgrounds, including media studies. Indeed, certain well-known names have no formal science training at all. A number of correspondents are also politically motivated and write as activists, even in news items;

5. The fact that, in Britain, Shakespeare is always given preference over Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton.

No wonder that science in the UK is legitimised by the hegemonic social myth and that we daily suffer such unbalanced reportage as this: 'G8 climate plans "watered down"' (BBC Online Politics News, June 17).

See also this: 'Only dead scientists are known to teens' (The Guardian, June 17):
"Teenagers are so out of touch with modern science that they cannot name a single living scientist, a survey reveals today.

Environmentalist and broadcaster David Bellamy was the closest that two out of almost 1,000 respondents got. Others cited Madonna, Chemical Ali, Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus. Some students even plumped for their science teachers....."

Philip, often horrifed by the uncritical nonsense of so much environmental reporting. Time for an espresso doppio to stir me up.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

WWW EnviroSpin Watch

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