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Thumbs down for BBC science

TV science programme

7 Oct 2010

SCI members are not impressed with the BBC's coverage of science and think it is neither impartial nor accurate, according to a survey carried out in September 2010. One exception was the BBC 4 series, Chemistry: A Volatile History, aired in spring 2010, which received a positive comment.

The review, which focused on the accuracy and impartiality of science coverage on radio, TV and online, was led by geneticist Prof Steve Jones of University College London. In a letter to SCI's Honorary President, 2010-2012, Dr Stephanie Burns, Prof Jones, said, 'We are very keen to hear the views of individuals and groups with interests in particular aspects of science, whether it be in communication, in research, or in social and proactive implications of the field. As your organisation clearly falls into this category, we would welcome the opinions of the Society of Chemical Industry on the issues raised.'

Replying to Prof Jones with members' comments, Joanne Lyall, SCI Executive Director 2010-13, said, 'We feel that SCI is in a very good position to give feedback on this issue given that we are a unique international forum where science meets business on independent, impartial ground.

'In order to respond to your review, we sought the views of our members via our website, e-newsletter and magazine.'

Ms Lyall detailed the key themes from respondents:

  • Would like to see the BBC cover a much wider range of science topics
  • Certain topics such as medicine, climate change or creationism, receive a disproportionate coverage
  • Would like to see more coverage of sciences such as physics and mathematics
  • Coverage of science is too soft and 'dumbed down'
  • Information is distorted or misrepresented in the interest of the 'soundbite' or word count
  • Media, including the BBC, often create opposing views for the sake of effect and can give undue credence to minority views rather than giving proven science the 'last word'

Ms Lyall added, 'SCI would be very happy to assist the BBC Trust with further input to this review if required and we would welcome the opportunity to work with the BBC to improve the impartiality and accuracy of its science coverage on the wide range of scientific topics where our members have expertise.'

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