The BBC Trust today announced that it will carry out a review in the spring to assess the 'accuracy and impartiality' of the corporation's coverage of science.

It says the review, which will be published in 2011, will assess science output relating to public policy and "matters of political controversy". The "science" label will include technology, medicine and environment coverage that "entails scientific statements, research findings or other claims made by scientists".

"Science is an area of great importance to licence fee payers, which provokes strong reaction and covers some of the most sensitive editorial issues the BBC faces," says Richard Tait, chair of the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee (ESC).

"Heated debate in recent years around topics like climate change, GM crops and the MMR vaccine reflects this, and BBC reporting has to steer a course through these controversial issues while remaining impartial.

"The BBC has a well-earned reputation for the quality of its science reporting, but it is also important that we look at it afresh to ensure that it is adhering to the very high standards that licence fee payers expect."

The review, the latest of a number of BBC Trust reviews addressing impartiality, follows a year in which science bloggers used their online voice - to powerful effect - to raise concerns with mainstream media coverage; this latest announcement is unlikely to escape their scrutiny.

"'Impartial' is a word you use to describe political disputes," Dr Ben Goldacre, Bad Science blogger and Guardian columnist, told

"We don't want media coverage of science to be obsessed with representing all political constituencies and extreme interest groups, confusing 'balance' with 'accuracy'," he said.

"We want it to be evidence based, to come down and say 'that's nonsense' when something plainly is nonsense, and crucially, we want media organisations to give enough proper technical details about the science that people can make their own mind up about a disputed area, instead of the current patronising assumption that everyone is stupid and uninterested.

"What you get at the moment, with science in the media, is a bit like a sports report that covers random small teams with lots of discussion about personalities but no actual scores."

What do you think about the new review? Leave your comments below or get in touch: judith [at]

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).