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The KSJ Science Editing Handbook

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 03 December 2020

This handbook is a product of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT and is made possible thanks to support from the Kavli Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education

Editors: Deborah Blum, Joshua Hatch & Nicholas Jackson

The insights, knowledge, tips and resources all editors need to meet the highest standards for quality of science journalism.

The handbook aims to draw lessons from those who specialize in science writing and editing — to provide their insights, knowledge, tips, and resources to all editors. The goal is to help ensure that science journalism meets the highest standards of quality no matter what the publication or the audience.

The handbook is designed to empower editors to ask the right questions, enable them to spot faulty reporting or flawed science, and to provide information on best practices in reporting on science and the many subjects, now more critical than ever, that it touches, whether the environment or a pandemic.The handbook provides practical tips for editors. But it also seeks to recognize the unique challenges and decisions they face. Many of the lessons are illustrated by example — when science journalism shone as well as when it was left wanting.

The chapters are written by some of the most widely celebrated science editors and reporters working today. Each chapter ends with reference materials and other resources to help editors make the best decisions. The handbook was written with the aim to help you find and tell science stories that both engage the public and strengthen its trust in science journalism.



1. Introduction 

2. How Science Works - Apoorva Mandavilli 

  • Introduction
  • The Ivory Tower
  • How Science Is Funded
  • The Publication Process
  • Preprints
  • Replication and Retraction
  • How to Read a Paper
  • How to Read a Press Release
  • Expert Tips and Best Practices
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

3. Sources and Experts: Where to Find Them and How to Vet Them - Melinda Wenner Moyer

  • Introduction
  • Finding Sources
  • Vetting Sources
  • Ensuring Gender and Racial Diversity
  • Avoiding False Balance
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

4. Making Sense of Science Stats - Elisabetta Tola 

  • Introduction
  • Questioning the Data and Accounting for Uncertainty
  • Sample Size
  • Evaluating Risk
  • Mean, Median, and Mode
  • Correlations, Causations, and Data Over Time
  • Helping Readers Understand the Numbers
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

5. Editing for Story - Rachel Feltman

  • Introduction
  • Telling the Right Story
  • Building Narrative Into the Reporting Process
  • Finding Structure Without Losing Touch With Science
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

6. Editing Controversial Science - Laura Helmuth

  • Introduction
  • False Controversies
  • Policy Controversies
  • Scientific Controversies
  • Practical Advice
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

7. Holding Science to Account - Tom Zeller Jr.

  • Introduction
  • Planting Flags, Luring Tips, Drawing Heat
  • Questioning Scientists’ Motives — and the Status Quo
  • Standing Apart From Science
  • Playing the Watchdog and Plumbing for Documents
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

8. Covering Health Care - Erin Brodwin

  • Introduction
  • Cover Your Bases
  • Navigating Sources and PR
  • Research, Peer Review, and the Clinical Trial
  • Avoid Contributing to Stigma
  • The Rules Apply to Silicon Valley, Too
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

9. Climate and the Environment - Fen Montaigne 

  • Introduction
  • The Climate Story
  • Science and Denial
  • All Climate Change Is Local
  • Covering the Broader Environmental Story
  • Solutions
  • Red Flags
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

10. Fact-Checking Science Journalism: How to Make Sure Your Stories Are True - Brooke Borel

  • Introduction
  • The Three Models of Fact-Checking
  • The Fact-Checking Process
  • Setting Up a Fact-Checking System
  • Working With Fact-Checkers
  • Fact-Checking on a Budget
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

11. Illustrating Complex Science Stories - Jen Christiansen

  • Introduction
  • The Role of Visuals in Science Journalism
  • The Process of Building Science-Centric Graphics
  • Strategies for Using Visuals to Put Breaking Science in Context
  • Special Considerations for Data Visualization
  • Uncertainty and Misinformation
  • Editorial Illustration, Photography, and Moving Images
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

12. Social Media and Reader Engagement - Katie Fleeman 

  • Introduction
  • Strategies and Goals
  • Crafting Social-Media Posts for Science
  • Different Platforms, Different Audiences
  • Collaborating on Social Media
  • Interactive and Real-Time Engagement
  • Measuring Success
  • Figuring Out What Works for You
  • Additional Reading and Resources
  • About the Author

13. About This Handbook


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