Many discussions of science journalism are increasingly focusing on the need for investigative reporting -- deep digging that exposes something someone wants to hide. This is important. But it isn't the only type of science writing with value. Is really good explanatory science writing becoming a poor relation here? You don't have to expose a scandal to create original, well-crafted content that has real value to the reader/viewer/listener. Sometimes, to explain something really well is enough. Yet with newsrooms cutting back, and focusing the limited resources they have for off-diary research on investigation, good explanation of science for general audiences is taking a back seat. It's time consuming and expensive, but doesn't either carry the kudos or attract the eyeballs that makes news organisations take notice. The Wellcome Trust (where Mark is Head of Communications) is about to launch an online project that will commission high-quality explanatory content (including infographics, animation, video as well as long-form writing) about the areas of science the Trust funds -- but not restricted to its actual scientists. An alpha or beta version of the site is likely to launch soon after Scio 13. Meanwhile, Ed has been writing a column for the BBC that tries to take a more detailed explanatory look at the more far-flung promises of typical news reports. He's also found that his explainers, like an oxytocin piece for Slate, and an ENCODE mega-post on his own blog, have been some of his most popular work this year. Ed and Mark will argue for the value of explanatory content, and explore what makes it good. Mark and Mun-Keat Looi will introduce the Wellcome project, explain what we're looking for, and canvass for improvements -- and of course ideas we might commission.
- What makes good explanatory science writing?
- Who should it be aimed at, and what are the differences between aiming at specialist and general audiences?
- Who's supporting good explanatory science journalism, and why?
- Is explanatory science writing just PR for science?