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Do the media cover science impartially?

By James Dacey

A recently published review of the BBC’s science coverage concluded that, for the large part, its content is accurate and impartial. The review, published by the BBC Trust, consisted of an independent report from geneticist and popular-science author Steve Jones and a content analysis carried out by Imperial College London.

“[The BBC] is widely praised for its breadth and depth, its professionalism, and its clear, accurate and impartial manner,” writes Jones. “Science is well embedded into programming, on a diversity of platforms.”

Jones does, however, warn of instances where scientific debates have been misrepresented in an attempt to create balance or conflict. “Equality of voice calls for a match of scientists not with politicians or activists, but with those qualified to take a knowledgeable, albeit perhaps divergent, view of research,” Jones asserts.”Attempts to give a place to anyone, however unqualified, who claims interest can make for false balance: to give free publicity to marginal opinions and not to impartiality but its opposite.”

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But, while Jones’ report refers exclusively to the BBC, I am sure that similar conclusions could apply to other sections of the media. We want to know your opinion on this issue. On the whole, how do you find the media’s coverage of science? Please visit our Facebook page where you can take part in a poll. If you can participate, I would also encourage you to add a comment to tell us which topics you feel are covered particularly well, or particularly badly.

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