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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The View of a Science Writer

A friend of mine from college became a science writer for various newspapers and magazines. Once he told me about his two biggest complaints about scientists.
  1. Scientists want everyone who works on a project to be named in an article.
  2. Scientists want every detail in an article to be complete and correct.
You might initially take the side of the scientists. But the science writer does not write for the scientists but for the general public.

Put yourself in the position of the reader. The reader doesn't want to read through a long list of names that they won't remember anyway. The average reader also just wants an overview of the research and its importance. If removing some technical caveats and slightly oversimplifying the research achieves a better level of understanding to the reader, so be it.

Remember next time you read a science article in the popular press or get interviewed for such an article, the goal of the article is not to pass a serious referee review but to give the general public some glimpse into an important research area.

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