The recent rash of stories about (a) a 22-mile long underwater plume of dispersed oil, or (b) a newly discovered microbe that had eaten the plume entirely raises questions not only about the research but also about the way it has been covered. Can both be true simultaneously?
Three sources that may help put the stories in perspective are the Diane Rehm show, the MIT Science Journalism Tracker, and Science News.
Today's Diane Rehm show directly examines the apparent contradiction between the two studies -- a contradiction not directly addressed by much of the journalism in recent days. She interviews both principal investigators and discusses the issues with a diverse panel. The show is still on as the Glob posts, but can be streamed and downloaded from the Rehm site.
MIT's Boyce Rensberger at the Science Tracker reviews a wide range of the stories on both studies. He mentions a fact that few news media mentioned -- that the oil-eating-microbes-made-it-vanish study was funded by BP. And he asks whether funding sources shouldn't ALWAYS be part of a science story.
Still more perspective is added by Janet Raloff's Aug. 25 piece in Science News. Raloff reminds us that ships are still gathering data about this dynamic ocean process and cautions against a "rush to judgment." The story is evidence that critical thinking and actual subject knowledge still have important roles to play in news media coverage of science.
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