Lords confirm need for SIRC / RI Code
SIRC's concern for more accurate and balanced reporting of science and health issues has been echoed by the Lords Science and Technology Committee. The committee's chairman, Lord Jenkin, notes the need for a "real two-way dialogue between the scientists and the public" (Telegraph) and argues that there should be more rigorous guidelines for science journalists because "many scientists feel that they do it badly." (BBC) (See also Independent and Guardian)
The Royal Society, working with the Lords Committee, has now produced guidelines for scientists on communicating with the media and notes for editors on handling science stories. The work being conducted by Social Issues Research Centre, in conjunction with the Royal Institution and the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, on a Code of Practice for Science and Health Communication will incorporate many of the points made in these guidelines. There is a need, however, for a Code which not only clarifies what 'accuracy', 'fairness' and 'distortion' amount to in the science and health fields but which is aimed specifically at reducing the inappropriate 'scaremongering' in which the media often engage.
SIRC's draft of the Code of Practice for journalists and broadcasters has now been prepared and has received widespread endorsement from leading figures in the science, health and media professions. A parallel Code for scientists and health researchers is also near completion. These will shortly be published on this web site and a discussion forum will be open to all who wish to make comments. We look forward to lively debate.