Writing reviews

23 04 2012

Why don’t we see more reviews of science shows? Newspapers are stuffed full of professional reviews- of books, films, TV, music and theatre. Perhaps we are too immature an art form or too small to warrant such professional attention. But then we don’t even have amateurs reviewing shows on blogs or in newsgroups.

We don’t see science show reviews because up until this point, there hasn’t been a critical language or a framework to use to review a science show. Not only has this made reviewing difficult (what actually makes for a good show or a bad show? how could I compare show x and show y when they are so different?) it also makes reviewing overly personal (who am I to review them? how dare they say that about me?)

A post like this one LINK, returned from a quick Google search of ‘writing reviews’ lists items to consider for people wanting to write a traditional review. For example,  in TV review writers are encouraged to consider Character, Narrative, Issues and Story Line, in music they list Theme, Performance and Production Quality.

Having a framework around which to base a review makes the whole process easier and less personal. When reviewing science shows we should consider:

STORY- does the show have a theme, has it been put into a context or is it just a collection of unrelated demos?

AUDIENCE- does the show’s content and language reflect the needs and capabilities of its audience? and

SCIENCE- what is actually explained, demonstrated or revealed? is this done accurately and interestingly?

Two recent reviews posted to this blog have been written to this formula. They can be found HERE and HERE. A third earlier review has been written with explicit reference to this formula which can be found HERE.

This framework, Story-Audience-Science,  has been chosen after consultation with many of the best science communicators in the UK and Ireland. It has also been discussed with teachers, festival organisers and science show audience members. It has been designed to be both comprehensive, applicable to every type of science presentation, and specific, allowing for a meaningful critique.

More people should review the presentations they see. And science presenters should review themselves. It is only by becoming more reflective we will improve as individuals and as an industry.

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