Recognizing and Leveraging Sources of Scientific Credibility

Almost any story can be strengthened by adding some research-derived facts, but many general assignment reporters aren’t confident about how to find the best experts or assess the credibility of science-based reports; we will walk you through how.

Scientists can be invaluable sources for almost any kind of local news story—even when that story isn’t “about” science. Environmental health experts can factually address local concerns about pesticides or pollution. Social scientists can share research findings that help explain why people behave (or misbehave) as they do. Entomologists can explain why ants or termites are invading homes. But non-specialty reporters often lack a deep bench of reliable experts to turn to. And when the news is explicitly about science or health, as with COVID-19, sifting through the firehose of tempting news releases and scientific reports and understanding and conveying the scientific evidence accurately couldn’t be more important. This session will provide tips and tools for journalists to strengthen their confidence and ability to use scientific research and scientists in their reporting—helping them tell deeper, richer, and more compelling stories—and sharpen their recognition of research that’s on the outer edges of accepted norms. Speakers will present and lead discussions on three topics for non-specialists: i) how to get the essentials from a scientific paper, including a basics about experimental design, statistical significance, and uncertainty; ii) how to identify trustworthy experts as sources and what to consider when assessing the relevance and impact of their research; and iii) how to apply these tools to make national stories relevant locally—especially for underrepresented communities.

Suggested Speaker(s)

  • Meredith Drosback
    Senior Associate Director for Science,
  • Bethany Baker
    Senior Media Relations Manager, Public Library of Science