Telling the stories of science: thanks and farewell, Marisa Wikramanayake

marisaPerth-based science journalist, writer and editor Marisa Wikramanayake took the reins of the account this week for a breakneck whistlestop tour through the worlds of science communication and journalism, fiction and non-fiction writing, and science editing. In doing so she gave us a valuable insight into ‘the other side’ of science journalism – as researchers or as people interested in science, the view is often taken that science journalism is in a crisis, that the media doesn’t respect science, that editors and owners don’t properly resource science journalists or journalism, that those journalists sent to cover science are usually ignorant of science, indulge in false balance and cheap distortionary hyperbole to whip up superficial interest and artificial debate. Some of that may be true. But what is also true is there are a great many passionate and engaged science journalists out there – like Marisa, and like Joel Werner who tweeted for us earlier in the year – who tread the tightrope of endeavouring to understand, advocate and translate science from the bench to the spoken or printed MSM word, balancing the pressures of telling the truth and telling the story in an engaging way which will connect with their readers and their editors.

In one particularly fascinating thread, Marisa led us through the process and the conflicting pressures of researching, crafting and structuring a scientific story for various media platforms, an exercise as informative for baby science journalists as it was for researchers who’ve seen that process from the ‘bench’ side, often with their fingers over their eyes in horror at what was being ‘done’ to ‘their’ science in the name of telling a printable or marketable story. The understanding that ‘their’ science is ‘our’ science – all of ours, as taxpayers, as health system patients, as citizens of a society that values scientific and intellectual endeavour – and that for better or worse, the heralds which trumpet the tales of that science are now and in future primarily going to be the MSM – needs to be accepted by all sides. Of course, the rise of the ‘citizen science communicator’ – both in terms of lay people with passion for science and scientists with a passion for communication – makes this acceptance easier.

The sheer volume of engagement on the topics Marisa brought forth for discussion can be illustrated by the fact we broke Storify trying to archive them all. We’ll have a comprehensive archive of Marisa’s time on the account shortly, but for now we recommend you check out her website, where she’s popped up a few curationary Storify archives of her own, as well as following her at @mwikramanayake. Thanks again to Marisa and good luck in the future.

Next week, we return to the bench with developmental biologist Dr Megan Wilson (@DrMegsW), from the Department of Anatomy at the University of Otago, New Zealand.
Sweet as bro.


James is a recovering scientist and escaped postdoc who works in research management at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He's now retired from active @RealScientists duty, after serving from the project's beginnings in 2013 through to mid 2015. When not managing research, surviving #PlanetParenthood or pretending not to be an expat Australian in the Deep South of NZ, he tweets @theotherdrsmith.

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1 Response

  1. October 13, 2013

    […] Telling the stories of science: thanks and farewell, Marisa Wikramanayake […]

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