P3: Journalists are from Mars; scientists are from Venus. Will they ever be on the same planet?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Maclean's/Medical Post/MIT

The rising rates of vaccine deniers in developed countries; the regular promises that science has found a cure for cancer; the Dr. Oz-based medicine that is practiced in pharmacies and health clinics across Canada: Many blame the media for these unscientific and anti-science practices, arguing that journalists don’t understand the iterative nature of research or the science well enough to communicate it.

But it’s not only journalists’ fault when things go wrong. Science is more complicated than ever before, and communicating research is no easy task. Often it feels like scientists are from Mars and journalists are from Venus; Will they ever cohabit the same planet?

At a time when research is being produced at an unprecedented rate—and science has never offered so many insights for humanity—the stakes for getting science right in the media are higher than ever. Yet the gulf between researchers and journalists seems bigger than ever.

By bringing a diverse panel of journalists and scientists together, we hope to explore the nuances of the gaps between the two worlds and how to bridge them. The journalists will discuss the language and culture barriers that exist when they report on science for a lay audience, and ideas for improving translation. The scientists will speak to the difficulties they face—and opportunities for improvement—in communicating their work, as well.

The goal of the session is to raise the level of discourse about this gap between research and science and to initiate a dialogue about how to better connect the world of science to the world of journalism. Journalists and scientists will identify places where these worlds clash and make suggestions for how to improve the level of science discourse in the media and warm relations


Investigator and Director of Research
Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute

In his dual roles as Investigator and Director of Research at of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Dr. Jim Woodgett (@jwoodgett) applies his visionary approach to research how to manipulate cellular processes to treat certain cancers, diabetes, and neurodegenerative conditions, and to ensure that discoveries made by the world-renowned Institute are applied to patient care.

McMaster University; McMaster Health Forum; Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; Harvard School of Public Health

Steven Hoffman (@shoffmania)is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics at McMaster University, an Adjunct Faculty with the McMaster Health Forum, and a Research Fellow with the Global Health Diplomacy Program at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. He is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Global Health & Population at the Harvard School of Public Health and a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Global Health Institute, Harvard University. An international lawyer by training, Steven is licensed to practice law in both Ontario and New York. His research integrates a range of analytical and empirical methods to study global health decision-making and evaluate international strategies for addressing global health threats, inequalities and human rights, particularly in the context of health systems strengthening, access to medicines, health security and knowledge translation. He teaches two fourth-year undergraduate courses at McMaster University on global health advocacy and global health governance, law and politics, and a graduate course cross-listed between the Harvard School of Public Health and the Kennedy School of Government on innovation, access to medicines and global governance.

Medical Reporter
The Canadian Press

Helen Branswell (@HelenBranswell) is the medical reporter for The Canadian Press, Canada's news agency. Her career in journalism has spanned over three decades. Since becoming CP's medical reporter in 2000, she has covered SARS, avian influenza, swine flu, the new MERS coronavirus and the effort to eradicate polio. She was awarded a 2004 Knight Public Health Journalism Fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and was a Nieman Global Health Fellow at Harvard University in 2010-11.

The Medical Post; Maclean’s; Knight Science Journalism, MIT

Julia Belluz (@JuliaOfToronto) is a Toronto-based journalist. A National Magazine Award-winner, she writes about health care and policy for the Medical Post, and the popular blog ‘Science-ish’ for Macleans.ca. Currently, she is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Ryerson University’s journalism school.

CENSE Research + Design; Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Dr. Cameron Norman (@cdnorman) is a designer, scientist, educator, and health promotion professional passionately committed to using design and systems thinking to make sense of our world and address the complex conditions that challenge our health and require new thinking. He is the Principal of CENSE Research + Design, a social innovation consultancy group and design studio that helps organizations apply systems thinking, creativity and foresight to engage their teams, clients and the public more effectively.

Dr. Norman is on faculty at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto focusing his research and teaching on health promotion practice and program evaluation. Dr. Norman’s academic background includes an undergraduate honours and Masters degree in psychology, a PhD in public health, and two-year post-doctoral fellowship in systems thinking and knowledge translation. He’s currently completing a professional Masters of Design (MDes) degree at OCADU in Strategic Foresight and Innovation.