Based on a survey of UK science journalists and 52 in-depth interviews with specialist reporters and senior editors in the national news media, researchers from the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies say that specialist science news reporting in the UK is in relatively good health, but also warn that a wider crisis in journalism poses a serious threat to the quality and independence of science reporting.

According to the research, between 1989 and 2005 there was an unprecedented rise in the numbers of science journalists in the UK national news media and there is a growing appetite for science news within newsrooms. On the other hand, the economic and institutional constraints under which science journalists now operate have led to extreme workload increases.

More than half of those surveyed (53%) said workloads had increased significantly in the last five years, 35% said they had increased somewhat, 8% reported workloads as stable, and none of the journalists surveyed said they saw a decrease in their workloads. The result has been less time to seek out stories, check facts, and do basic research, increasing reliance on PR material from a very limited pool of news sources, and a growing homogeneity in science coverage.

Despite the troubling details reported by many science journalists, most do not believe their work is under serious long-term threat, nor do they think that science news has been hit any harder than other specialist patches of journalism. 56% of survey respondents disagreed that science specialists are a dying breed in the UK (although 53% also disagreed that there would be more science journalists in the UK in ten years’ time).