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Genet Med. 2005 Mar;7(3):198-205.

Scientists' and science writers' experiences reporting genetic discoveries: toward an ethic of trust in science journalism.

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  • 1Phoebe Berman Bioethics Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.



To describe the relationship between scientists and science writers and their experiences with media reporting of genetic discoveries.


This study included individual interviews with 15 scientists who specialize in genetics and 22 science writers who have covered their stories and a qualitative analysis of the data.


Scientists and science writers place an equally high priority on accuracy of media reports. They agree on what makes genetics stories newsworthy and the particular challenges in reporting genetic discoveries (i.e., poor public understanding of genetics, the association of genetics with eugenics, and the lack of immediately apparent applications of genetic discoveries to human health). The relationship between scientists and bona fide science writers is largely positive. Scientists tend to trust, respect, and be receptive to science writers. Both scientists and science writers acknowledge that trust is an essential component of a good interview. Science writers report a fair degree of autonomy with respect to the relationship they have with their editors.


To the degree that trust facilitates the access that science writers have to scientists, as well as higher quality interviews between scientists and science writers, trust might also contribute to higher quality media reporting. Therefore, scientists and science writers have an ethical obligation to foster trusting relationships with each other. Future research should systematically explore ways to cultivate such relationships and assess their impact on the quality of science journalism.

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