Reporting Research: How scientists should talk to journalists and how journalists should write about science

Department: Literary Journalism

Date and Time: February 17, 2016 | 4:00 PM-5:30 PM

Event Location: 1517 Social and Behavioral Sciences Gateway (SBSG)

Event Details

A public conversation on science writing with:
Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow (UCI Writer-in-Residence),
Erika Hayasaki (UCI Literary Journalism Assoc. Professor),      
Jennifer Sahn (Executive Editor, Pacific Standard),
Elizabeth Loftus (Scientist and UCI Distinguished Professor)


Journalism about science (including social science) is increasingly popular, but presents a variety of challenges. For journalists, it is often difficult to convey the nuances of scientific work given space constraints and the need for accessibility. Another challenge is using narrative to explain research in a way that makes it come alive for readers. At the same time, journalists may not be equipped to judge the validity or significance of scientific studies, and this limited knowledge can result in misleading or sensationalistic reporting. From a scientist’s perspective, it can be difficult to communicate with journalists in a way that is both clear and compelling.

How can journalists strike the right balance between precision and readability? How can they be sure to responsibly cover research, pointing out limitations and putting findings in proper context? And how can researchers explain their work in a way that is conducive to accurate and engaging media coverage? This conversation will explore all of these questions. Students of both science and journalism, as well as other interested students and members of the public, are encouraged to attend.

Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow’s writing has appeared in Slate, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, Boston Review, and Dissent, where she is a contributing editor. She was previously a contributing writer for the Boston Globe’s Ideas section, a columnist for the urban affairs website Next City, and a Journalism and Media Fellow at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Erika Hayasaki is assistant professor of English at UC Irvine and  a journalist who writes about health, science, behavior, culture, crime, youth, education, race and death. She is a former New York-based national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, where she spent nine years covering breaking news and writing feature stories. She is the author of The Death Class: A True Story about Life (Simon & Schuster 2014). Her research, writing and teaching interests include medical narratives, telling feature stories off the news and digital longform journalism. In addition the LA Times, Erika’s stories and essays have appeared in Newsweek, Glamour, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Los Angeles magazine, as well as in the burgeoning world of digital publications devoted to in-depth feature storytelling including Matter, The Big Roundtable, Narratively, Longreads, and Zocalo Public Square. She has worked as a Los Angeles editor for Narratively, and is the author of two Kindle Singles, Dead or Alive (2012), and Drowned by Corn (2014), both Amazon bestsellers.

Jennifer Sahn is the executive editor of the Pacific Standard.  She was previously at Orion magazine, where she served as editor for 12 years and as managing editor before that. Stories she has edited have been awarded the Pushcart Prize, the O. Henry Prize, the John Burroughs Essay Award, and have been widely re-printed in the Best American Series anthologies, the Norton Reader, and via online aggregators such as Longreads. During her tenure as editor of Orion, the magazine was twice a winner of the Utne Independent Press Award for General Excellence and twice a finalist for a National Magazine Award. She has taught and lectured at such venues as the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Kentucky Womens Writers Conference, and the National Conference for Media Reform.

Elizabeth Loftus is Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Loftus’s research has focused on human memory, eyewitness testimony and on courtroom procedure. Loftus has been an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of cases, including the McMartin PreSchool Molestation case, the Hillside Strangler, the Abscam cases, the trial of Oliver North, the trial of the officers accused in the Rodney King beating, the Menendez brothers, the Bosnian War trials in the Hague, the Oklahoma Bombing case, and litigation involving Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, and the Duke University Lacrosse players. She has published 23 books and over 500 scientific articles. She was elected president of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the Western Psychological Association (twice), the American Psychology-Law Society, and the Experimental Psychology division of the American Psychological Association (APA). She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 and has received many other awards and distinctions.  In a study published in the Review of General Psychology that identified the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, Loftus was #58, and the top ranked woman on the list. Her full biography is available here.