A Troublemaker’s fringe

Photo by Flickr user e-magic. Click for sourceNext week the World Conference of Science Journalists will be coming to London. A few of us felt they might not adequately address some of the key problems in their profession, which has deteriorated to the point where they present a serious danger to public health, fail to keep geeks well nourished, and actively undermine the publics’ understanding of what it means for there to be evidence for a claim.

More importantly we fancied some troublemaking and a night in the pub.

As a result, you have the opportunity to come and see three angry nerds explain how and why mainstream media’s science coverage is broken, misleading, dangerous, lazy, venal, and silly. Join our angry rabble, and tell the world of science journalists exactly what you think about their work. All are welcome, admission is free. They may not come.

After the presentations (with powerpoint and everything, in a pub) we will attempt to collaboratively and drunkenly derive some best practise guidelines for health and science journalists, with your kind assistance.

Ben Goldacre has written the Guardian’s Bad Science column for 6 years, where he exposes misleading science journalism, health scare hoaxes, pill-pushing quacks and the crimes of the evil multinational pharmaceutical industry. He will talk about how the media promote the publics’ misunderstanding of evidence, focusing on health scares, journalists’ hoaxes, and their consequences, as well as cases where scientists have had their work misrepresented and failed to get satisfaction from newspapers.

Vaughan Bell is a neuropsychology researcher and clinician in the NHS, where he deals with disorders of the mind and brain, and is a writer for MindHacks.com, where he deals with disorders of the media. His talk will be called “Don’t touch that dial! Technology scares and the media” and will discuss how the media loves to tell us that new technology will give us brain damage and mental illness but is strangely adverse to discussing the research even when the science says there’s not a lot to be worried about.

Petra Boynton is a Social Psychologist and Lecturer in International Health Services Research. She specialises in researching sex and relationships health. For the past 7 years Petra has worked as as an Agony Aunt in print, online and broadcast media. She actively campaigns for free and accurate sexual health advice within the media both in the UK and Internationally. Petra will talk about the consequences of PR companies misusing surveys and formulas as a form of cheap advertising, the problem of unethical or untrained people posing as ‘media experts’, and what happens when journalists fail to fact check science and health stories.


Of note, attending the WCSJ will cost you £200 a day. You are welcome to come to our event entirely for free, beer/shrapnel in a bucket gratefully received. Journalists, corporate event organisers: welcome to the shits and giggles economy. Special thanks to Sid the Skeptic from Viz for booking the room at short notice.


World Conference of Science Journalists 2009 – Troublemakers Fringe


Penderel’s Oak Pub, 286-288 High Holborn, London WC1V 7HJ, Holborn Tube.

Google Maps here


1st July 7pm for 8pm – Midnight

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