'Trust us... we're doctors': Science, media, and ethics in the Hwang stem cell controversy

When doubts were first raised about the veracity of the dramatic advances in stem cell research announced by Professor Hwang Woo-Suk, a significant minority response was to question the qualifications of journalists to investigate the matter. In this paper I examine the contemporary relationships between science, scientists, the public, and the media. In the modern context the progress of science often relies on the media to mobilise public support for research and also for the purpose of communication within the scientific community. As a result, attempts to counterpose "science" and "the media" should be treated with some caution. I argue that because of the essential role played by ethics in good science, journalists may in fact sometimes be well placed to investigate scientists. At the conclusion of my paper I draw out some of the implications of my analysis for the ethics of investigative journalism directed towards scientific research.
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