Summer School

News

It seems that the pharmaceuticals industry has interesting ways of getting writers to turn up for public hearings.

Over at the Center for Media and Democracy they have an item entitled Drug Company Takes Rap for Burson-Marsteller's Cash Offer to Journalists. This reports that a PR company offered hacks £200 as an inducement to attend a public hearing before the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), which was considering an appeal against one of its decisions on some drug or another.

It seems that the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), a subset of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, has ruled that the drug company was being naughty. According to their web site, the case deals with "Alleged payment to journalist". The the ruling (a pdf file) suggests that there was a misunderstanding between the drugs maker and its PR company. That didn't wash with the PMCPA.


The Register, a quirky tech-heads web site that mars an otherwise good approach with a lazy habit of describing any scientist as a boffin, not to mention other signs of a limited vocabulary, has weighed into the BBC and its science output. The site has provoked a bout of comments from readers along the lines of "they did science better when I was young".

The programme, annoyingly called a program by this English web site, that sparked off the discussion, Null points for BBC Horizon's junk science, was something called "Human v2.0". This prompted Andrew Orlowski to write an item BBC abandons science. His view of Horizon is that "instead of re-examing its approach, the series' producers have taken the bold step of abandoning science altogether".


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A new web site from Haymarket, Healthcare Republic, covers the medical scene, a small niche in science writing.

Flaks and hacks will both be interested in the announcement that: "Healthcare Republic fast-tracks the latest and best press releases as soon as they are distributed." And the exhortation to "Browse the current releases or submit your own".

Yet another RSS feed to add to that groaning pile.


Just in case you missed it, the Prime Minister of the UK has gone all science on us. The evidence is in the speech Our Nation's Future - Science he delivered last week to "the Royal Society in Oxford".

There was even a sideswipe at the media in there. (Now there's a surprise.) But it wasn't at the science media so much as the rest of the pack who "may demand certainty" that "any new technology is 'absolutely safe'" as the PM put it, before adding that "science cannot provide" that guarantee and "we should not pretend it can".

He even plugged a couple of science books. "We have seen recently some excellent popular books - Steve Jones, Richard Dawkins, Steven Hawking, Bill Bryson, whose A Short History Of Nearly Everything sold over two million copies and which was sent to every secondary school. The BBC and the Open University have some excellent science services." Wonder why he didn't mention any science writers.
Cambridge, which claims that it "hosts the UK's largest free science festival every year," is looking for things to put on next year.

In 2007, the Festival runs from 14 to 25 March, during National Science and Engineering Week. "The aim is to encourage young people to study science further at school and university; and to engage with the public of all ages on topics of scientific interest and concern."

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"Award-winning Sun journalist John Perry" will be one of the combatants at an at event at the Science Museum on 9 November.

"The event promises to be a heated discussion into how scientific research becomes news. Questions raised will include: just how accurate is a science story? How did it get there? Why do some stories make the front page while others stay within academic circles? Should the media take a share of the blame for blunders such as the MMR jab?"


While you are there, you can buy copies of Plus Giant Leaps "a collaboration between the Sun and the Science Museum to explain great moments in science in Sun style".

Writing science for tabloids can be a heck of a lot harder than writing for what were once known as "broadsheets," so the book could be an instructive read.



The shortlist of Editors of the Year up for the awards from the British Society of Magazine Editors that appears at UK Press Gazette is depressingly thin when it comes to anything with a science angle. Apart from Maureen Rice of Psychologies, who is in the running for the Launch Of The Year category, it is down to Damian Carrington who is shortlisted in the Magazine Website Of The Year Award for Newscientist.com. If Damian does collect, he will probably have to move to a bigger house to get room for all those awards.

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