But is “defeat,” which implies failure, the right characterization? While the latest insights into the genomics of schizophrenia may mark the end of one line of thought and the beginning of a new one, that is progress, not regression. While Wade was correct to challenge the press releases’ claims that the new schizophrenia research amounted to a “breakthrough,” his disparaging article exemplifies the type of reaction that science journalists need to avoid when covering so-called failures.
“Science adds to its knowledge by confirming hypotheses through experiment, but it also adds to knowledge – learns – through finding out that hypotheses don’t work,” said David Bruggeman, contributor on Prometheus, a (now defunct) science policy blog. That’s a key point. Science is a process, and there’s no better way of conveying that to the public than by reporting all aspects of the field. We hope that Restoration Ecology’s “Set-backs and Surprises” is itself a successful experiment and that, with it, reporters will learn a bit more about the beat they cover and help readers understand that science is not black and white.