Debate-Driven Science Journalism

Hanns-J. Neubert (links) und Shawn L. Otto. (Foto: Wolfgang C. Goede)

Hanns-J. Neubert (links) und Shawn L. Otto. (Foto: Wolfgang C. Goede)

Science and research arouse desire. Politicians for example hope for solutions for problem which overstrain them, companies look for ever new innovations for their discontinued models in order to increase profits, and lobby groups want to exert influence because knowledge is power.

But what about the scientists themselves and the citizens?

Although the citizens pay for science and research, the research agendas are set by politicians, companies, and lobby groups.

Scientists want to discover new things, want to gather knowledge and experience in order to pass them on. But they can do it only in those fields which are defined by politicians, companies and lobby groups, because research funds will be only given for targets which basically serve their own interests.

Science Debates can be forums where citizens and scientists can directly exchange their visions, ideas and opinions – without being distorted by political, economic, financial or societal interests. In Science Debates the role of science and research in society can be negotiated anew. They can also be places where society can ask for its role in science and research.

In face of the breathless propagation of science and technology as troubleshooters and provisioners of work for all and everything, it might be time for reflections about the really big coherences, coherences which span the whole earth, all civilisations and time horizons of centuries. Because of that, also philosophers, mathematicians, logicians, culture and social scientists have to to have their say. This might look like having the head in the clouds. But it is not.

The so-called »Forth Power«, the media with their journalists and editors are in the position to moderate such an exchange in a critical way. They have learned to  watch things from a distance without interfering, although stepping in with questions. They have learned to balance and to put narrow views of sight into broader coherences. And they have learned to transfer difficult facts and thoughts in understandable ways.

During the World Conference of Science Journalists 2013 in Helsinki, Finland, from 24th to 28th June 2013 concepts for science debates where discussed under the title »Debate-Driven Journalism:  A Tool and Opportunity for Science Journalists« and how they can be used to generate news and features.

Presenters were:

The presentation of Hanns-J. Neubert can be downloaded here:

Further thoughts for the development of science debates can be found in this text: »Re-thinking Science Debates«

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