Martin Griffiths
The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) has appointed Martin Griffiths to the newly created role of national coordinator for science journalism training.

Griffiths, who is currently on secondment from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, previously worked as a writer and section editor at Physics World, the members' magazine of the Institute of Physics.

In his new role he will assess the existing state of science journalism training for journalists and journalism students in the UK and identify what the priorities should be for new training.

"The role was created to coordinate existing efforts and then work with other organisations (e.g. BBC College of Journalism) to develop new courses and training material according to the needs that have been identified," Griffiths told
"The training will be aimed more at non-specialist journalists, who need to write about science (science in its broadest sense - including health, environment, engineering) or use statistics, than at specialist science journalists. The three main elements of this will be: helping universities include more science or stats content in their journalism courses; running training courses for working journalists; and developing an online resource to host all this material and link to other resources."

Griffiths, who took up the position earlier this month, has launched a website, Science Training for Journalists, which he hopes will host videos and resources from the training courses. The Press Association and Reuters have already expressed an interest in getting involved with the workshops, Griffiths said.

"We're very clear that it's not about slapping journalists on the wrist for bad science reporting - there are already plenty of people doing that. Part of it is about helping journalists get science right, which will include basic numeracy, reporting risk accurately and learning how to read a scientific research paper," he said.

"But it's also going to be about equipping journalists to find good science stories. For example, I think the current enthusiasm for data journalism could provide a really good opportunity to get journalists and scientists to work together - the statistical analysis techniques you need to do good journalism with data are similar to those that scientists use to analyse their experiments."

The creation of the position was one of a series of recommendations made in January in a report to the government, Science and the Media: Securing the Future, which focused on ways to safeguard the quality of science journalism for the future and its current state in the UK. An advisory group to support the role has also been set up and includes Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism, and Nigel Hawkes, former health editor of the Times.

Funding has been secured from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills for the first year of the position, but the society hopes financing can be found for beyond this, Andrew Garratt, RSS press and public affairs officer, told in May.

The RSS is also working on a range of initiatives to improve journalists' understanding of statistics, such as regular training workshops and awards for statistical excellence in journalism.

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).