Martin Robbins, writing in The Guardian, has revealed the formula used in scientific reporting. Excerpt
This is a news website article about a scientific paperRead more. Robbins also reveals the purpose of subheadings and the comments following the article are definitely worth reading.
In the standfirst I will make a fairly obvious pun about the subject matter before posing an inane question I have no intention of really answering: is this an important scientific finding?
In this paragraph I will state the main claim that the research makes, making appropriate use of "scare quotes" to ensure that it's clear that I have no opinion about this research whatsoever.
In this paragraph I will briefly (because no paragraph should be more than one line) state which existing scientific ideas this new research "challenges".
If the research is about a potential cure, or a solution to a problem, this paragraph will describe how it will raise hopes for a group of sufferers or victims.
This paragraph elaborates on the claim, adding weasel-words like "the scientists say" to shift responsibility for establishing the likely truth or accuracy of the research findings on to absolutely anybody else but me, the journalist.
In this paragraph I will state in which journal the research will be published. I won't provide a link because either a) the concept of adding links to web pages is alien to the editors, b) I can't be bothered, or c) the journal inexplicably set the embargo on the press release to expire before the paper was actually published.
"Basically, this is a brief soundbite," the scientist will say, from a department and university that I will give brief credit to. "The existing science is a bit dodgy, whereas my conclusion seems bang on" she or he will continue.
I will then briefly state how many years the scientist spent leading the study, to reinforce the fact that this is a serious study and worthy of being published by
the BBCthe website.
According to The Guardian, "Martin Robbins is a Berkshire-based researcher and science writer. He edits The Lay Scientist, a community blog about science, pseudoscience and evidence-based politic."
So not even the BBC is infallible. Just as well I usually check for original media releases from research organisations.