Good Practice Guide for writing Science Blog Posts

Mind the Science Gap Posts are published without formal review, placing a high level of responsibility on you, the author, to make sure you do not misrepresent the science or mislead your readers.*  These guidelines are intended to help ensure what you publish is as professional and as useful as possible.

Golden Rules

  • Never extrapolate beyond the evidence, and where possible use multiple sources.
  • Read around your subject – never present a single paper/report as authoritative without cross referencing it to other work in the field.
  • Remember that different sources should be weighted differently according to their authority – a blog post carries less authority (usually) than a peer review paper for instance.  And media pundits usually are not as authoritative as established researchers.
  • Always spend a few minutes Googling your subject to make sure you are not repeating what others have written about, or are missing an important angle.  This is especially important if there is significant history to your subject you are otherwise unaware of.
  • Always cite your sources.
  • If you use images, always make sure you have permission to use them, and acknowledge your sources appropriately.  Remember that an image is part of your narrative – make sure that it enhances rather than detracts from the narrative in your post.
  • Never write as if you are an expert in a subject, unless you are.  This usually (but not always) means having a MD or a PhD in a relevant area.  Rather, write as in intelligent and informed reporter of someone else’s work.
  • If there are controversies or differences of opinion surrounding your subject, report then fairly.
  • Ask someone else to read your drafts – all writers are myopic when it comes to their own work.
  • Before pressing “publish” ask “is everything I have written defensible from the current state of knowledge?”
  • If you wish to express your opinions in a piece (and in the realm of public health this is expected, as your role as a professional is to help improve health and wellbeing, not just write about it), make it very clear that these are your opinions.
  • Remember, your role is to act as an honest and independent conduit between the reader and the information you are writing about
  • And at the end of the day, remember that honest errors can be corrected in posts – as long as you acknowledge them rather than hiding them.

 

*Mind The Science Gap is written by graduate students studying to be public health professionals.  When they enter the class, they come with a high degree of professional training, and are prepared to “fly solo” in the blogging world.  In fact, this is a critical step to preparing them for a similar level of responsibility in their professional lives.  However, while posts are not formally pre-vetted, they are rigorously post-vetted. Where there are contentious points made, they are encouraged to engage with their audience through the comments or, if necessary, edit the posts (with appropriate acknowledgment of the changes).  The course instructor reserves the right to remove posts that clearly misrepresent the science on which they are based.