Science journalism as first immune reaction to potential threat to society
Ljubljana, 28 January - A panel featuring science journalist Fabio Turone was among the highlights of this year's Science Communication Days, organised last week by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS). According to the central guest of the meeting, science should accept science journalism as the first immune reaction to a potential threat to society.
Turone told the STA a key challenge in science communication was building trust and trustworthy public discourse among citizens and researchers. He argues scientists are the ones best equipped for facing uncertainties and can therefore help people understand that there are no simple solutions to complex problems and that each solution requires compromise.
The pace of scientific progress sometimes does not allow enough time to reflect on the impact of new technologies, since economic pressure to introduce them is too strong. Thus the goal of scientists and science journalists is to examine all questions that have remained open and to keep raising them even if they remain unanswered, since the answers can change with time due to new findings.
He also stressed that science should accept science journalism as a kind of first immune reaction by society. "When there is something that looks like a potential threat to society, science journalist intervenes. Sometimes there is an overreaction and science feels attacked unfairly, but sometimes it is a healthy reaction that helps science itself to treat and cure its wounds," Turone said.
In an interview with journalist Ksenija Horvat, Turone added that science sometimes did not have the right answers when quizzed by journalists. Because science is based on evidence, it is sometimes necessary to say that an answer does not exist, especially when health related topics are involved, Turone stressed.
Jana Kolar, the management board president at the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS), stressed on the sideline of the event that science communication was as important as ever today. She said a number of challenges needed to be faced today to which science held the answers - these answers however need to be communicated in an intelligible way. She said it was the duty of scientists to get involved in public debate whenever they can and secure what is a critical and reliable source of information that is trusted by the public and the media.
Science Communication Days are about raising awareness about the importance of science communication and about obtaining the skills needed. They are part of the Science Communication project, which has seen ARRS organise meetings with acclaimed journalists and experts in science communication since 2014.
This year's meeting included a workshop on media skills for researchers led by journalist Anja Hlača Ferjančič, as well as workshops for editors, journalists, researchers and scientists led by Turone.
Turone is a science journalist, the founder of the Centre for Ethics in Science and the president of the Asocisaton of Science Journalists of Italy. In 2019 he also became a management board member at the European Federation for Science Journalism, which brings together sicence journalism associations from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK. In 2016-2017 he was a research associate in the Knight Science Journalism programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.