News / Science & Technology

    Making Sense of Science

    Science journalism is increasingly important in technology-driven world

    Holly Morris and Randy Atkins are the two winners of this year's IEEE USA Journalism Award.
    Holly Morris and Randy Atkins are the two winners of this year's IEEE USA Journalism Award.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Smitha Raghunathan

    Engineered devices are all around us.

    From cell phones and computers to hybrid cars and deep-water oil platforms, advances in engineering are profoundly changing our lives. But concerns are growing that public understanding of how these technologies work - and how they impact our society and the environment - is not keeping pace.

    To help bridge this knowledge gap, the engineering community is increasingly turning to science journalism.

    Recognizing engineering in the news

    Only 1 in every 800 people in the United State is a professional engineer. That leaves many Americans without the technical knowledge, or vocabulary, to make sense of today's complex, technology-driven world.

    But science journalists - some armed with advanced scientific degrees of their own - are helping to translate those complex stories into terms lay audiences can understand. Scientific organizations are welcoming this effort. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers recently created the IEEE USA Journalism award to honor the work of science journalists.  

    Nita Patel, the institute's vice president of communications and public awareness, says the award was created to promote engineering and science writing so the public can learn how their lives are impacted by technology.

    Engineering on the radio

    Randy Atkins of the National Academy of Engineering was one of this year's winners.

    He was recognized for his weekly Engineering Innovation podcast, which adds technical context to issues in the news, such as the safety features on the space shuttle.

    His minute-long reports air during rush hour, providing commuters with a quick look into what is going on in the fields of engineering. Atkins says journalists these days don't try hard enough to convey the important issues behind the news of the day.

    "There is engineering - I believe - behind almost every news story. The audience is intelligent and I think they would crave this information if journalists would just take the time to give it to them."

    Scientists of tomorrow

    The other winner of this year's IEEE USA Journalism Award is Holly Morris of Fox News DC, a local TV station in the nation's capital.

    During the morning newscast, Morris covers events in the community, and IEEE recognized her for her report on the 2009 National Engineers Week Future City Competition.

    The contest challenges middle school students to design the cities of tomorrow, addressing engineering issues like energy generation, water treatment and infrastructure to ease emergency response. Morris - who has a degree in civil and environmental engineering - says projects like this can inspire kids to pursue careers in engineering, and also help create a dialogue that may one day lead to important advances.

    "It's the good old fashioned concept of brainstorming. I want to listen to what you have to say because what you have to say might then be the catalyst to help me come up with something that is gonna eventually be the answer."

    Explaining the engineering behind oil drilling

    As new technologies are put to use in so many areas, the need for this type of journalism is especially important, according to Wilson Lowrey, a University of Alabama journalism professor.

    The lead author of a recent study of media communications during disasters, Lowrey stresses the importance of explaining the inherent complexities of today's technologies to the general public, an especially relevant topic with the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico

    "For example, in the situation with the Gulf, [if we were to say] 'Well, BP did the wrong thing. That's a bad company. They made bad decisions.' If that's the lesson learned - and maybe I'm opinionating here - but I think that's the wrong direction to go. I think we also, at least, need to look at the question of well, what about our energy policy? Should we be drilling to the bottom of the ocean at all?"

    These are the types of questions that the IEEE USA Journalism award-winners are asking - while educating the public on the technological capabilities and exploring the limitations of our scientific community.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora