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Centre helps media make sense of science

by Shari Graydon

It’s a scary world out there — especially if you’re scientifically illiterate. Is climate change going to drown Manhattan? Will a generation of young people who’ve never owned a land line be felled by brain cancer by the age 35 from massive cell phone use? Do the chemicals in personal care products mess with our hormones?

Science is implicated in an increasing number of news stories, but many journalists — having earned degrees in humanities or journalism — don’t necessarily have the kind of educational background that assists them in critically assessing the data.

Enter the Science Media Centre of Canada. Under the leadership of veteran science journalist, Penny Park, the initiative is designed to support general assignment reporters in covering stories in which science plays an important part.  SMC prepares comprehensive and fact-checked backgrounders, provides rapid responses from scientific experts on emerging stories, and delivers webinars on key issues. Last week, for example, the Centre briefed participants on climate change science in advance of the Cancun meetings.

Modeled after centres already operating in the UK and Australia, it’s a timely and needed intervention.