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Bias and language

Specialist language

The presentation of information to a non-specialist audience is always difficult. Specialists in any field use particular words and ways of expressing themselves that are their own short hand, and can seem very cliquey and alienating to anyone who is not in their ‘club’. This is true whatever the subject – just think about the special language used in sport for example. Who knows what off side means if they are not into football? Or what a googly is if they don’t play cricket?

Often this does not really matter, but when the specialists are trying to inform non-specialists about things that affect their daily lives, possibly in life altering ways, this becomes serious. This is the situation we have when scientists and non-scientists try to communicate about science. The potential for misunderstanding, and miscommunication is huge. This is why we are all so reliant on specialist communicators to interpret between the two communities – specialist and non-specialist.

But how can we tell when the communicators are fair, unbiased, and accurate, and when they are inaccurate, through accident or on purpose, because they have a particular view they want to present?

 Bias and funding

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