Scientist Emily Willingham blogs about science at Double X Science. BoingBoing just alerted me to the existence of her site and the fact that she has come up with a handy, six-step guide for reading and interpreting science news stories (it applies equally well to press releases).
The six rules are useful for lifting the veil on the science being touted or reported and should serve as a lesson for press release authors hoping to avoid hyperbole and journalists wishing to remain neutral in their reporting and avoid sensationalising a mundane research paper.
Willingham explains why each of her rules is important and gives a demo of how to apply them with a sample news story about exposure to “chemicals” and autism. The same checklist can equally be applied to scientists writing about developments in science too, of course. Certainly, it is worth considering rule #5, if choosing to apply #6…everyone has an agenda.