Tag Archives: social networks

Journal spotlights science journalism

The latest issue of Nature explores the present and future of the relationship between media and science. Coverage includes balanced and constructive critiques of social media and journalists who aren’t themselves scientists as well as some obligatory questioning of the future of journalism as an industry.

In one article, Geoff Brumfiel details the rising role of Twitter-style social media in chronicling and commenting upon scientific conferences, saying that while providing for open and easy exchange of information, it also blurs the line between scientist and journalist. Additionally, the instantaneous and far-reaching broadcast of ideas makes competitive researchers even warier of revealing groundbreaking findings at conferences, on the grounds that they may then be snatched by any rival with Web access.

In another piece, journalist Toby Murcott questions the efficacy of press release-based science journalism and calls for reporters learn the expertise necessary to understand the fields on which they are reporting, and for journals to publish review comments that will provide more context for each article.

In a more focused editorial, Nature calls attention to tuberculosis and suggests that TB sufferers and researchers need to follow the example of AIDS and “capture the world’s imagination and support” by reaching out and finding “highly effective champions.” Globally, 9 million people develop active cases of TB each year.

Other pieces that may be of interest to health journalists:

Doc: Medicine, journalism face similar challenges

In a world where opinions and insights pop up exponentially, to what extent can we rely on experts? And, moreover, just who is an expert? Ken Kosik, M.D., who co-directs the Neuroscience Research Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara, raises these questions in a thoughtful essay in Harvard University’s Neiman Reports and suggests that, with the abundance of information available to us, no one is an infallible expert anymore.

In what he calls the ‘wikification of knowledge,’ Kosik maintains that medicine and journalism increasingly share the same challenges when it comes to gathering information and reaching conclusions in this new era of social media. At issue is a balancing act when it comes to weighing the wisdom of an expert with the modern-day equivalent of collective folk medicine.

“Within the potential of social networks lies untapped wiki knowledge poised to challenge the experts by opening wide the collective knowledge gate,” Kosik writes. “Wiki knowledge derived from a social network offers a fluid, open source, ongoing meta-analysis – a virtual collection of experiences that can be constantly updated as users enter more individual data. Social networks empower the ‘expert,’ be it a doctor or a journalist, because access to this community-generated knowledge is shared by all.”

Navigating this terrain, however, can be tricky, given the pitfalls he identifies: For one, those on a social network tend to be younger and not economically disadvantaged, which amounts to selection bias. Privacy is another factor, because networks of people can limit information that is shared. And entering false data on a social network can, of course, distort outcomes.

“While flickers of hope appear on the Web through encounters with others and a shared experience, judging the reliability of this experience – and its fit with our own – can be difficult. But to have the opportunity to find information and test its reliability means that no longer is one person – an expert – expected to know everything and render infallible judgment,” Kosik concludes. “That view is the no-longer tenable burden of the expert physician; nor can it any longer be the guiding belief of the trained journalist.”