This is from Journalist's Resource, a tip sheet on how to cover the news. Its "Epidemiological models: 10 things journalists covering coronavirus research should know" advises ten things that journalists should tell their readers when trying to explain how those models and scientific studies work.
For those who wonder about the legitimacy of the studies and how well they are reported, this should be interesting news:
- Make it clear in your coverage that models are only as good as the data used to build them, and that researchers currently lack high-quality data about this pandemic.
- Explain to your audience that researchers also make assumptions when creating models.
- Keep in mind that researchers use a variety of models to study infectious diseases. They are designed to answer different questions.
- When reporting on a model that makes a numerical prediction — for example, the number of Americans who will die from COVID-19 during a period of time in the future — emphasize that the prediction is a ballpark estimate represented by a range of possible numbers.
- Tell your audience what the study adds to what we know about that particular topic and which big questions remain.
- Ask these seven questions when interviewing researchers about epidemiological models.
- Give additional scrutiny to models created by researchers who have not demonstrated expertise in model building.
- Be leery of epidemiology models from scientists who aren’t experts in epidemiology.
- Use Twitter to find out what academics and others are saying about new research.
- Learn more about epidemiological models. It will help you ask stronger questions and better explain coronavirus research in plain language.
To get further details on each point, follow the link.
How well do you think that journalists are following these guidelines? I'd say that it's a mixed bag, but in general, not very well.
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