Science, journalism and other sports
Saturday, the Washington Post finally published the news that George Will has been intentionally misinforming his readers on the topic of climate change.
Saturday, the Washington Post finally published the news that George Will has been intentionally misinforming his readers on the topic of climate change. (Previous attempts to get corrections/clarifications published had consistently been stonewalled.) However, after some 5 weeks of trying, the World Meteorological Organization (an arm of the UN) was able to get the word out, along the lines of "it's our data, we collected it, we reported it, and it's being consciously misused."
In the same issue, Chris Mooney used the Will case to issue a call for journalism reporting or commenting on science subjects to be subjected to some sort of ethical standards -- not the same sort of peer review process academic journals use, but active editorial review to make sure the data isn't cherry-picked or otherwise "sexed up" to support a politically-motivated conclusion.
Now, I'm not a big fan of over-editing (much less accreditation) when it comes to journalism (even if blogs are excluded). But (and the NCAA basketball tournaments are probably responsible for planting this thought in my alleged mind), why shouldn't we expect the same sort of accuracy in science journalism as we expect from sports coverage? No newspaper (certainly not one of the prominence of the Washington Post) would have printed Will's column if he'd claimed that the Detroit Tigers won seven World Series in the 1990's. Why is scientific mis-statement any more acceptable than that?
(And yes, I know that Will is a baseball fan and would never tell such a lie about America's pastime. That kind of proves my point, doesn't it?)
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