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BBC Will Now Link to Primary Sources in Science Articles

The BBC has sent out revisions to its linking policy to its online staff, and among more blogger and website friendly policies, they have included the provision that all science articles must link to the primary source, i.e., the published scientific study.

We’ve heard about this from second hand sources, but no one was able to produce the actual e-mail, until The Guardian picked up the story.

Mainstream science reporting is often criticized for bias, selective reporting, and oversimplification performed in the name of making science “approachable” to a wider audience.  There are, of course, a number of reasons behind this of varying malicious content: actual bias, for example, or the difficulty of the scientific concept in the first place.

Although, as Reddit commenters point out, many of these journal articles may be online only for paying subscribers to the journals in question, a link to the primary source, while perhaps not changing the content of the article, will at least show readers how to judge the original material for themselves.  Hopefully the BBC’s move will motivate other organizations to do the same.

In other good news for bloggers and websites that might become sources for the BBC, the news organization acknowledges that linking is “essential to online journalism,” plans to double the amount of outgoing links (to 20 million a month) it makes by 2013, suggests that journalists link to “pages of specific relevance” instead of just the front page of a site, and okays inline linking if it’s to a primary source.

Read the whole e-mail (in the form of a power point, natch) below.

BBC guidelines for linking – Sept 2010

(The Guardian via Online Journalism Blog via Reddit.)

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