ESEP Theme Section 2 - Vol. 9, No. 1

The ethics of science journalism


Science journalism is facing tough challenges today. The general public, the lay readers, have a desire—and a right—to learn what new discoveries are being made, and how they may affect their everyday lives... and they rely on science journalism to bring them this information. However, the topics are often very complex and difficult to relay in terms that are understandable for the non-expert, and they can be politicized or pushed by different lobbies. Topics such as climate change or stem cell research affect humanity on an existential level, and the ethics involved in portraying these topics—how, or indeed whether to portray them—are complex. This unique theme section brings together the views of all parties involved in science journalism and bringing science to the public today: writers (freelance and staff), editors, publishers, and scientists themselves.





Gross M

Is science reporting turning into fast food?

ESEP:Ethics in Journalism pp1 | Full text in pdf format


Clarke M

Ethics of science communication on the web

ESEP:Ethics in Journalism pp2 | Full text in pdf format


Ward B

Journalism ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty

ESEP:Ethics in Journalism pp3 | Full text in pdf format


Cornell J

Advocates, adversaries, and adjuncts: the ethics of international science journalism from a US perspective

ESEP:Ethics in Journalism pp4 | Full text in pdf format


Halliday E

Knowledge is power: In a world shaped by science, what obligation do scientists have to the public?

ESEP:Ethics in Journalism pp5 | Full text in pdf format


Egikova V

Russian science journalism: the past and the future

ESEP:Ethics in Journalism pp6 | Full text in pdf format


Cook DM, Boyd EA, Grossmann C, Bero LA

Journalists and conflicts of interest in science: beliefs and practices

ESEP:Ethics in Journalism pp7 | Full text in pdf format



Visit the discussion forum on this theme section on Nature Network




Topics to be explored in this second ESEP Theme Section include:


  • Who is responsible for making sure that results of scientific research are accurately portrayed in the media? What part do the journalists, the publishers, the researchers play?
  • Do researchers themselves have a responsibility to explain to the public—the taxpayers, whose money funds their research and whose lives may be affected, directly or indirectly—what they work on?
  • Are certain topics pushed, are others neglected? What are the criteria?
  • Are embargoes—the release of discoveries to the media with a time limit for when they can be published—Helpful? Necessary? Allowable?
  • A large part of science news is produced by freelance science writers. How much time can they, literally, afford to spend on researching a topic thoroughly? Does this setup work, and how does it compare to staff science writers in big news outlets?
  • How is public opinion on science topics formed, and what role does journalism play in this? If something is portrayed incorrectly, are there any ways to correct this, or does the 'first impression' stick?
  • Do journalism ethics apply to science journalism? Is it helpful or damaging, even confusing, to always try and portray both sides of an argument, even if the number of supporters on one side of the argument may be negligible and there is a general consensus among peers?


Depending on the manuscript type, submissions are peer-reviewed. All contributions will be produced by the experienced editorial staff at Inter-Research, and accepted manuscripts will be quickly made available online with OPEN ACCESS, guaranteeing world-wide visibility.