I dare you to convince me this isn’t decent science journalism

Comedian Nikki Glaser has a new show on Comedy Central, Not Safe, focused on sex in pop culture. The second episode contained a segment called “Studies Show” which invited panelists to riff off the results of sex research. At the end, Glaser provided a stingingly accurate commentary on the way journalists the media apply the results of individual studies on hot button topics too broadly and which aligns well with Mike’s analysis of the challenges of scientific research:

I hope you learned something, but, if not, no big deal. They’ll be contradicted by new studies next week. – Nikki Glaser


Nightmare data

The lovely and affable Tyler Dukes* has successfully pitched a session for the Science Writers 2012 meeting in October on dealing with “nightmare documents”:

Investigative science writing like this isn’t unique — but it’s a lot more rare than it should be…it’s expensive and time consuming. And more and more often, it’s becoming an unavailable option to news organizations looking to cut costs…In late March, I issued a broad-based call for what I called “nightmare documents,” the sorts of opaque public records that can be a real pain for journalists trying to use them in their reporting…Impossible-to-analyze databases. Government records hidden behind clunky Web interfaces. Unsearchable public reports digitized on ancient scanners.

I’ve encountered the same problem, not as a journalist, but as a researcher – datasets that are “shared” or “publicly available” that are almost unusable due to poor formatting and annotation. Although many journals require datasets to be made available, the requirements for useful formatting and annotation, even at public data repository sites, are usually laughable. And, most busy researchers can only be bothered to meet those minimal standards (eg, “Do you think that is good enough for them to let us publish? Cause I got a grant due.”).

I am happy to say that this is an issue of which Open Data advocates are well aware and are taking concrete steps to address.

*We say nice things about people who want to interview us; and by “us” I mean “me”. Mike says positively horrid things about everyone he talks to.

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