The struggle of science writing

In the New Zealand Herald, Auckland based writer Graham Reid uses the release of The Best Australian Science Writing 2011 as an opportunity to look at the difficulties of reporting on science.

An excerpt (read in full here):

Book Review: The Best Australian Science Writing 2011

Science is a problem for mainstream media. It isn’t sexy, usually can’t be reduced to a snappy headline or soundbite, progress is glacially slow in a fast-turnaround world, there are too many big words, and its practitioners are often more at home in the lab than blinking into the light of the public domain.

Science takes its time. Darwin didn’t exactly bolt into print with his world-changing On The Origin Of Species and whatever cure there is for cancer is arriving in incrementally slow steps.

Pity the poor journalist – two days at best to get the story – coming to a significant scientific development that involves decades of prior research, complex language and a front-person ill-at-ease with the media.

Scientists themselves frequently find it difficult to tailor their explanations and ideas in a way which successfully communicates. There are exceptions, of course – in print, the late Stephen Jay Gould and Simon Singh; charmers like polymath Simon Schama; and on television Dr Robert Winston, although the closest physics may get to small-screen time is the geek sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

But science struggles on every front to get whatever message it has out there, which may explain why this anthology of almost 30 essays by some sassy Australian writers is only the first such collection. Yet here is wit aplenty and clear communication.

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