When I was a newspaper science editor, I approached Nobel Prize season with mixed glee and anxiety. Glee, because I knew that, without even an argument, I would get space in the paper for stories about research too arcane to make it into print the other 51 weeks of the year. Like the Academy Awards, the Nobels always get covered, and obscure topics like neutrino metamorphosis and DNA excision repair get their moment to shine, like the folks who win Oscars for sound mixing.
But I felt anxious, too, because my job – as a journalist with no science background – was to make sure those stories would be clear and comprehensible to any reader, and fascinating to more than a few. I wanted them to be stories that would make someone pick up the phone – this was back in the day when people did that – and say, “You’ve got to hear about this.” But journalists are just one leg of the sometimes shaky triangle of science communication, with scientists and the public carrying the other two sides. (more…)