Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From the Vault - You say Scientists, we say Engineers

Independent Complaints Review Panel Decision: Catalyst
The Independent Complaints Review Panel (ICRP) has upheld a complaint made by Dr Brian Lloyd and Mr Michael Rice against the ABC Television program Catalyst.
The ICRP Report stated, in part:
'Two engineers, Dr Brian Lloyd and Mr Michael Rice, complained to the ICRP about the Catalyst program of 31 October 2002 which dealt with research into brain trauma following car crashes'.
The complainants said the program attributed the work to 'scientists' without mentioning the fact that the great bulk of it had been done by engineers, with some input from scientists. Dr Lloyd and Mr Rice said engineering was not a subset of science. Engineers were not scientists nor scientists engineers. 'Supers' at the bottom of the screen had identified some of the participants as engineers, but these had been fleeting and most viewers would not have noticed them.
Both complainants say that the persistent downgrading of engineering, as particularly exemplified in the ABC program, is against the national interest, as it makes engineering less attractive as a profession, and limits the number of young people entering it.
In its reply the ABC has defended the use of the umbrella term 'scientists' as it includes a number of professions without the need to itemise them. 'Scientist', the reply says, is a term easily understood by a diverse audience and is short and succinct.
The Panel finds, however, that as the bulk of the work done on setting up the conditions under which causes of brain damage could be examined, was done by engineers, the complainants are justified in their objections to engineers and scientists being lumped together. 'Engineer' is also an everyday term understood by a diverse audience, and is short and succinct. Catalyst is a program which seeks to inform its viewers about developments in various disciplines and it is therefore important it gets its definitions right.
The Panel notes that the complainants seek only from the ABC an acknowledgment that their objection to engineers being loosely described as 'scientists' will be taken into account in future programs. Limiting its finding to `unfair treatment', the complaint is upheld.
In his capacity as Editor-in-Chief, Managing Director Russell Balding, has written to the complainants to apologise on behalf of the ABC and inform them that due regard will be shown in future to the use of the terms 'engineers' and 'scientists'.
The ICRP is an independent body established by the ABC Board to investigate allegations of 'serious cases of bias, lack of balance and unfair treatment arising from an ABC broadcast or broadcasts.'
"From the Vault" - digging up past corrections and clarifications from the ABC archives.

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