How we choose stories
Live Science provides the most up-to-date, accessible and authoritative information on scientific topics. Our goal is to make sure everyone — from the science novice who simply likes pythons, to a 10th grader writing a report on Earth's layers to working scientists — comes away from our stories better informed and more curious about the world around them.
We provide timely coverage of science that is fascinating, important and relevant to readers' lives. We also seek to correct misconceptions, debunk widely circulating myths and clarify confusion online.
As such, we want to make sure our readers trust and understand the process we use to gather and represent information.
That process starts with our choice of which stories to cover. We keep abreast of the latest discoveries and advances in a wide range of scientific fields. We always take into account the body of research surrounding a new study or finding. When assessing the quality of research in a new study, our writers read the paper and look at the methods, not just the abstract.
If scientists have found something surprising or that seems to go against scientific consensus, we will only cover it if the research behind it is extraordinarily robust and if several experts tell us the findings are paradigm shifting.
For instance, we would likely never cover a study calling climate change into question because it would need to clear an extraordinarily high bar of evidence, given that thousands of studies so far have demonstrated that climate change is real and caused by human activity. If there is a wide diversity of viewpoints on a finding, we will try to represent that in our reporting.
For health stories, we look at the number of study subjects, the quality and nature of the trial, and how its results line up with past evidence before deciding to cover the topic. We consider the strength of the evidence — for instance, whether research came from a double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized trial or from an observational trial — when determining whether or not to cover it. We cover both peer-reviewed studies and preprints that have not yet been reviewed, but when handling the latter, we apply a heightened level of scrutiny and always seek weigh-in from experts not affiliated with the work.
We rarely cover animal or petri dish studies, unless they elucidate a fundamental mechanism underlying an important physiological process. When we do cover such studies, we will always make sure that limitation is clear in the headline or very early in the piece. We sometimes cover emerging technologies used to model the human body, such as "organ chips" and organoids, and explain how those models can be used in the context of both basic science and applied medicine.
We also cover medical case reports that describe rare or unusual maladies, taking care to treat the subjects of those reports with sensitivity.
Whenever possible, we have medical experts review informational pieces that describe health conditions, particularly those that can affect peoples' lives dramatically. So a doctor will review pieces that describe endometriosis or heart disease for accuracy. However, while we may describe available treatments for a given disease, we do not offer medical advice.
Whenever possible, we seek writers with longstanding knowledge or past experience covering similar topics: for instance, trained physicists will cover the latest gravitational wave discovery, or writers who have extensively covered ancient Egyptian archaeology in the past will write about the latest findings at Saqqara.
We do want to cover breaking news quickly, but getting it right is more important than getting something out fast. So every story is looked at by two experienced editors before it is taken live, and every story is fact-checked and checked for spelling, institutional affiliations, and clarity before publication.
Interviews and sourcing
Live Science strives to paint a thorough and accurate picture of the science behind any phenomenon. As such, when we interview people, we look for experts who are knowledgeable about the particular topic at hand, not just the general field of study, and who can provide important context and background information.
If we are covering a controversial study or findings that have raised skepticism in the scientific community, we will always reach out to both sides so they have a chance to comment and defend their position before a story goes live.
We also want to make clear exactly how our information was obtained. So we always make clear whether information was drawn from a study, a press release, or from an email or phone interview with a source. We link to the source of our information wherever possible, assuming it's not common knowledge, meaning not known by someone with about a 10th-grade education. If we draw information from another news source, we will link to and cite that source.
When pulling information from written sources, we look for the most reliable sources. We prioritize expert interviews, primary sources, peer-reviewed journal articles, book excerpts and information from government and official websites, such as those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over secondary sources.
We do not tolerate plagiarism, meaning unattributed use of phrases or sentences from other sources or outlets.
If a study author has a conflict of interest or financial ties to a drug company, we disclose that connection. Our writers are prohibited from taking money from sources, and if they have a prior relationship with an interview source (such as a friendship or research relationship), we will disclose that relationship.
Live Science does not change or "clean up" quotes. For phone or in-person interviews, we choose punctuation that makes the most sense. For email interviews, we will leave the punctuation and spelling as-is, or use brackets to clearly show we have modified the wording of a quote if it is not generally intelligible otherwise. We avoid using brackets wherever possible. Quotes will sometimes be broken up if adding additional text makes the meaning clearer.
Errors and corrections
When Live Science gets a fact wrong, we will acknowledge it immediately and place an editor's note on the story, noting what fact was corrected and when the article was updated.
If the thrust of a paper or finding is substantially wrong or incomplete, Live Science will write a new story reflecting the newer understanding. We do fix typos and spelling mistakes without a correction.
Experts and harassment, discrimination and bullying
Live Science does not tolerate bullying, harassment or discrimination in its own team. As such, we don't want to cite experts who have been found, through either an official school process or a legal proceeding, to have engaged in harassment, bullying or discrimination.
Language and style guidelines
Live Science relies on Associated Press style guidelines, with a few exceptions. We use Merriam-Webster for spelling, and American English.
Diversity of voices
Live Science seeks to include a diverse range of voices, both in our writers, and in the experts we cite. When seeking expert comment on a story, we try, wherever possible, to find sources whose voices have historically been minimized or excluded. When finding writers to cover the latest scientific work, we also seek to find underrepresented voices.
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Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.