• 24 FEB 16

    UK’s Science Media Centre lambasted for pushing corporate science

    Excerpt

    Fron Sci Dev NEt: Bringing science and development together through original news and analysis –

    Excerpt:

    Academics call for more critical journalism and public interest in science media centres, reports Mićo Tatalović.

    [SALVADOR/LONDON] Science media centres, institutions that aim to improve the coverage of science in the media, seem to be proliferating.

    New ones are being planned or created in Denmark, Germany, the European Union and the United States, following the ones that are already operating in Australia, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom.

    And a possible creation of such a centre in the developing world was discussed at last week’s PCST2014 (13th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference) in Salvador, Brazil (5-8 May).

    But now a body of academic research is emerging that challenges the self-professed independence and objectivity of the information provided by the Science Media Centre (SMC) in London, United Kingdom, which is said to have inspired the set-up of others.

    Its briefings on various issues, including those of relevance to development, such as genetic modification (GM) or renewable energy, are reported on by British mass media, such as the BBC and The Guardian, which have a global audience and influence.

    Researchers are questioning two of the SMC’s claims: to provide neutral scientific views to promote better representation of science in the media, and to be independent of its many funders, who are largely the corporate world and the government.

    Instead, they said at PCST2014, corporate lobbyists feature high on the agenda, which is dominated by the topics close to corporate rather than public interest.

    And the journalists who uncritically report on SMC briefings and quotes sent by the centre are being taken for a ride by a lobby organisation instead of a neutral science information provider, they said.

    “I would close down the Science Media Centre,” said Connie St Louis, former president of the Association of British Science Writers and a senior lecturer at City University, London. She conducted a small study on the centre’s impact on UK science reporting in the 12 national newspapers in 2011 and 2012.

    The SMC’s main activities include sending out ‘expert reactions’ — quotes on issues in the news — and holding media briefings, essentially small press conferences with a few experts.

    She found that more than half the SMC’s expert reactions were covered in the press and, in 23 per cent of the stories that included these, the only quotes were those that came from the centre.

    “Whatever the SMC delivered to them is what they used,” St Louis said of those 23 per cent of stories. “The SMC never claims to deliver a balanced [argument], so it’s really interesting that many of them weren’t using somebody independent of what the SMC offered.”

    Within the stories that did quote other sources, 32 per cent of those independent views opposed those offered by the SMC expert reactions, suggesting that the centre’s quotes fail to reflect the full range of opinions on a topic.

    The SMC’s media briefings were reported even less critically: 60 per cent of articles based on them contained no non-SMC mediated source.

    For a public relations (PR) organisation’s messaging service, that’s quite a success, said St Louis.

    Scientists or lobbyists?

    SNIP

    Read more →
    • 23 FEB 16

    The UK’s Science Media Centre model of science communication: An uncensored history

    Excerpt:

    Early in the research for my PhD thesis, The Procrustean Approach: Setting Exposure Standards for Telecommunications Frequency Electromagnetic Fields (2010), I examined the UK’s Science Media Centre (SMC) as an example of how science can be manipulated by a supposedly scientific organisation with a hidden agenda to support vested interests.

    As this was not directly relevant to my thesis topic: RF standard setting, the resulting paper was not used in the thesis. However, I became interested in revisiting the topic when the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) published on their scimex website expert criticisms on a recent Catalyst program “Wi-Fried” , which included statements (in part) from the following organisations:
    SNIP
    And so, with no apologies, here is my 2006 uncensored history of the SMC model of science communication.

    Read more →
    • 20 FEB 16

    More on Science Media Centre spin on the Catalyst program-this time from the UK branch

    Excerpt:
    Powerwatch in the UK has just posted an excellent piece covering the recent Catalyst program by Maryanne Demasi. IT seems the Science Media Centre in the UK is running a spin as well. To briefly quote from Powerwatch:

    “On Monday 15th February 2016, the UK Guardian newspaper posted an article by Maryanne. Then on Wednesday 17th they published an opposing pieceby a Dr Grimes”

    Dr David Robert Grimes is a young physicist and cancer researcher at Oxford University. In 2014 he jointly won the John Maddox Prize present by the Sense about Science Charity. They, along with the Science Media Centre, claim to present scientific truths to the public.
    SNIP

    Read more →
    • 19 FEB 16

    Maryanne Demasi responds to the orchestrated attack on the Catalyst program: Wi-fried

    The Huffington Post, Australia
    19 February 2016

    Sometimes Asking Questions Provides You With Answers That May Be Uncomfortable

    By Maryanne Demasi

    Excerpt:

    The claims that our program “should never have aired” should not sit well with the public. At best, it’s an over-reaction. At worst, it’s a form of censorship.

    Sometimes in science asking questions provides you with answers that may be unsettling. Not because they are conclusive, but because they are inconclusive. It’s the duty of scientists and science reporters to encourage critical thinking on issues that are still up for debate.

    Several other counties around the world have more stringent radio frequency safety thresholds than Australia. Italy, China, Switzerland and Russia have wireless safety limits, which are a hundred times more stringent than our own. In France, they restrict advertising of mobile phones to children. They have also banned Wi-Fi in nurseries and day care centres.

    So I decided to investigate. Why are some countries making these changes and not Australia? To say that this is a fringe view is not sustainable. SNIP

    Read more →