The RIS4E Science Journalism Program highlights science in an innovative way: by empowering journalism students to share the story. We use an active multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research program (RIS4E) as the basis for teaching the best practices of science journalism. This education program is powerful because it is deeply integrated within a science program, strongly supported by the science team and institutional partners, and offers an immersive, stimulating growth experience for learners. The RIS4E Science Journalism Program is preparing the next generation of science journalists to report on complex science accurately and effectively.
The RIS4E Science Journalism Program consists of two main components: a semester-long science journalism course and a reporting trip in the field. In 2015, nine undergraduate and graduate journalism students participated in the first RIS4E Science Journalism Practicum offered through the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Stony Brook University is the home institution of RIS4E Principal Investigator Timothy Glotch and several RIS4E team members, allowing close collaboration between the science and journalism leads. Throughout the semester, students learn about RIS4E science from the RIS4E science team. RIS4E scientists visit their classroom, provide one-on-one interviews, and provide tours of their laboratories at institutions throughout the northeast. The students practice their interview and reporting skills, and prepare for the working environment and physically harsh conditions they can expect to encounter in the field. During the course, students are also exposed to the business of science, science writing fundamentals, and the science of planetary exploration.
At the conclusion of the course, five students, along with a professor and a teaching assistant, joined the RIS4E team during their 2015 field season at Kīlauea’s December 1974 lava flow on the Big Island of Hawai’i. The journalism students observed the entire 10-day field campaign, from set-up through weather-motivated changes in plans, data analysis, and investigation of new questions that arose as a result of field discoveries. They watched the scientists formulate and test hypotheses in real time. The students were exposed, many of them for the first time, to the process of hypothesis formulation and testing, and the rigors of conducting research in the field. Their role was not to support the field research, but to document planetary science fieldwork in action: to watch the scientists do their work, find out why it matters, and share it with the world.
We will report results of the first RIS4E Science Journalism Program, and plans for the second iteration of the course in 2017.