Gibson’s Law – popular in American PR circles – states that for every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert. Ben Goldacre puts it a little differently in Bad Science, suggesting that there is almost no theory – however crackpot – for which you can’t find at least one supporting research paper. The broader point is this; when it comes to assessing the current state of scientific knowledge, individual experts and bits of research mean approximately jack shit. […]
Yet legions of science reporters are trying to do just that. Science stories are plagued with opaque references to ‘experts’ and ‘scientists’, who ‘say’ or ‘claim’ things. The most common of these crimes against meaning is perhaps the ubiquitousphrase‘scientists say’, a lazy clause as informative as “some people say…” or “I heard down the pub that…” […]
Stories like this achieve a number of things: they imply consensus where none exists, they fail to place research in context, they fetishize individual studies and people, and they provide audiences with an erratic and chaotic picture of scientific progress. […].