Science & Media conference tries to bridge the 'language gap' between journalists and scientists

Science & Media conferen

Science stories are generally given low priority by editors in the electronic and print media, are inadequately explained and regarded by editors as boring, even though most Israelis are genuinely interested in the subject, journalists and scientists agreed at an Israel Academy of Science conference in the capital. The all-day second Israeli Science Communication Conference, held in the academy's auditorium on Thursday and attended by more than 100 people, voiced a variety of views, including the need for prizes to encourage excellence in science reporting and sponsorship of TV programs on science. Often, said one TV official, daily weather reports are the only "science" items presented in a broadcast. Some academics are skillful at communicating their research directly to the public, but most need good science journalists to serve as "middlemen" in explaining scientific phenomena to the public, it was said. Journalists were described as using a "different language" than scientists, and bridging the two professions was often difficult. There also remains a lot of "pseudoscience," such as astrology, that is credible to significant portions of the population, lecturers said. The conference, one of the events to mark the academy's 50th anniversary, will be followed soon by the display of Albert Einstein's original paper on "The Theory of Relativity," announced Prof. Menahem Yaari, an expert in mathematical economics, who is president of the academy. The document is held in the Einstein archives of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The media, Yaari said, are "an important part of science, which does not get enough attention, except when Israelis win a Nobel Prize. But even then, much of the reporting does not consist of in-depth explanations that the public can understand." Many younger scientists are fearful of explaining their work to journalists, because they think they will develop a reputation for a "lack of seriousness" among their colleagues, but senior researchers often seek them out. Women scientists are generally more willing to speak to the media, it was said. Prof. Idan Segev, a leading neuroscientist at the Hebrew University, urged the universities to initiate projects, such as comprehensive science museums like those in Germany, that are bundled together in a single area, boast impressive architecture and can bring the public closer to scientific subjects. The demands of the more powerful media for exclusivity on important discoveries and breakthroughs, leaving other media outlets out of the loop, was raised as a growing problem that could lead to corruption and failure to criticize suppliers of scoops, while depriving the public of information important to their health. But publishers and editors who admitted to initiating and making such agreements insisted that it would be a difficult habit to break.