The UK Conference of Science Journalists are discussing "false balance" in science reporting today, their session on the subject featuring Professor Steve Jones, whose report on the BBC's science coverage and whose shoddy behaviour along the way have been noted here from time to time.
From the tweets so far, it seems that some of Jones' talk has not been taken very seriously:
On the other hand, Felicity Mellor has repeated her suggestion that science reporting needs more dissenting voices, not fewer.
Underuse of balance in BBC reporting, says Felicity Mellor. Little room for critical voices in science reports. #ukcsj
It's hard to disagree with this, and I couldn't help thinking of the 2010 conference, which I discussed a couple of posts ago. Presumably wanting to avoid "false balance", the 2010 conference invited Myles Allen and Bob Watson (but no sceptics) to speak to them about Climategate. Readers here know that both Allen and Watson have admitted that they have not actually read the Climategate emails, although of course this did not stop them speaking and writing about Climategate on a regular basis during the course of 2010.
Watson and Allen's ignorance on the subject was not known at the time and there is of course no reason why they shouldn't hear from two such eminent members of the scientific establishment anyway. However, by failing to invite any dissenting voices to speak, the conference ended up making itself look rather foolish, spending most of the session discussing Climategate as if it had something to do with the CRUTEM surface temperature record. There was nobody there to point out that only a handful of the thousand or more emails in the Climategate archive had anything to do with surface temperatures at all.
The problem with the false balance approach is that it leaves nobody to tell the emperor that he has no clothes. But it does mean that the efforts of UK science journalists should continue to provide plenty of easy targets. Every cloud has a silver lining.