Tip number 4: Always talk to at least one independent scientist
When reporting that 'new research shows ...', you should always talk to at least one researcher who was not involved in the study.
Always talk to an independent source

If you receive a press release and have time to call only one source, don’t go for the scientist behind the study. Call an independent scientist with knowledge in the field instead. (Illustration: Thøger Junker)

If you receive a press release and have time to call only one source, don’t go for the scientist behind the study. Call an independent scientist with knowledge in the field instead. (Illustration: Thøger Junker)

Key points

  • If you report on ‘new research shows that’, talk to at least one scientist who has not been involved in conducting the study.

  • Ask an independent scientist to read and assess the scientific study itself.

A startling claim from a scientist or a new study can be a good focal point for a news item.

However, when working on the story, you should always talk to at least one independent scientist who is not a close colleague of the source of the claim or study.

If you talk only to the scientist behind the study or republish a press release, you risk passing on an exaggerated or misleading story. 

Download the guide

 

This article is part of the guide 11 tips for journalists: How to avoid blunders when reporting on science. The guide is accessible in three formats: 

Online articles regarding each of the 11 tips.

The full guide of 11 tips as a PDF-file.

The 11 tips as a checklist, a one-pager.

Short deadlines, of course, limit how many scientists you can talk to. But if you receive a press release and have time to call only one source, don’t go for the scientist behind the study. 

Call an independent scientist with knowledge in the field instead. 

The best thing you can do is obtain the actual scientific study linked from the press release. Send the study to your independent expert and request an assessment. 

Sometimes it can be a good idea to look abroad for an independent scientist. Some research environments are so small that all the scientists have collaborated across the board.

Read more tips by clicking the blinking icons at the left in the graphic below.

About the Science Journalism Guide

This guide is for journalists and journalism students who are working on science and research news.

It provides 11 specific tips on how to avoid common pitfalls when covering science material.

The guide is written by journalists at the leading Danish popular science site Videnskab.dk.

It summarizes our many years of experience and the best solutions for communicating research and science critically and nuanced and with credibility.

Help us learn

The guide is based on our own experiences as journalists at Videnskab.dk, and we have received feedback and input from several talented scientists, communicators and journalism students.

It is important to emphasize that the guide sets out only general guidelines and rules of thumb.

No two stories are alike, and you will probably come across science stories where the guide is lacking or where it doesn’t make sense to follow all the tips. In other words, the 11 tips in the booklet are not set in stone.

If you have ideas or suggestions for how our guide — or our journalism at Videnskab.dk — can be improved, we would always like to hear from you. If you have questions, or if you are interested in a presentation on science journalism from Videnskab.dk, you are also welcome to contact us. You can write to us at redaktion@videnskab.dk.

The guide has been compiled by

Lise Brix, Ditte Svane-Knudsen, Anne Ringgaard, Thomas Hoffmann, Frederik Guy Hoff Sonne og Marie Barse.

Editing and layout: Jonas Salomonsen og Jon Mathorne.

Illustrations: Thøger Junker.

Translation: Stephanie Lammers-Clark. Proofread by Randy B. Hecht.

©Copyright and publisher: Videnskab.dk.

Thanks for help, input and feedback

Videnskab.dk has recieved economic support for our work with developing and sharing knowledge about science journalism from Den Fynske Bladfond, a foundation that supports free press in Denmark.

The following has provided valuable input and feedback:

Claus Emmeche (Associate Professor), Eske Willerslev (Professor), Felix Riede (Professor, AU), Gunver Lystbæk Vestergård (PhD in science journalism), Jesper Lesager Christensen (Journalism Student), Karin Frei (Professor), Kresten Roland Johansen (Lecturer, science journalism), Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen (Associate Professor,), Lasse Laustsen (Associate Professor), Mads Faurschou Knudsen (Associate Professor), Maja Horst (Professor), Mikkel Gerken (Professor), Oluf Danielsen (External Lecturer), Peter Hyldgård (Chairman, Danish Science Journalists), Simon Taarnskov Aabech (Journalism Student), Søren Kjørup (Philosopher, Emeritus), Andreas Søndergaard Petersen (Journalist, TjekDet) as well as journalism students at Roskilde University and Danish School of Media and Journalism.

Podcasten Brainstorm

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Hej! Vi vil gerne fortælle dig lidt om os selv

Nu hvor du er nået helt herned på vores hjemmeside, er det vist på tide, at vi introducerer os.

Vi hedder Videnskab.dk, kom til verden i 2008 og er siden vokset til at blive Danmarks største videnskabsmedie med omkring en million brugere om måneden.

Vores uafhængige redaktion leverer dagligt gratis forskningsnyheder og andet prisvindende indhold, der med solidt afsæt i videnskabens verden forsøger at give dig aha-oplevelser og væbne dig mod misinformation.

Vores journalister fortæller historier om både kultur, astronomi, sundhed, klima, filosofi og al anden god videnskab indimellem - i form af artikler, podcasts, YouTube-videoer og indhold på sociale medier.

Vi stiller meget høje krav til, hvordan vi finder og laver vores historier. Vi har lavet et manifest med gode råd til at finde troværdig information, og vi modtog i 2021 en fornem pris for vores guide til god, kritisk videnskabsjournalistik.

Vores redaktion gør en dyd ud af at få uafhængige forskere til at bedømme betydningen af nye studier, og alle interviewede forskere citat- og faktatjekker vores artikler før publicering.

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