Nature Marsilius Visiting Professorship Making the Case for Critical Journalism

Press Release No. 129/2023
29 November 2023

Martin Enserink takes over Nature Marsilius Visiting Professorship for Science Communication at Heidelberg University

Journalists can inspire their readers when they write about scientific discoveries. Yet they also have the responsibility of reporting on the “shady sides” of academia, such as careless research practices, plagiarism or fraud. Martin Enserink – a Dutch science journalist and deputy news editor of “Science” – is making his advocacy for critical journalism the main theme of the Nature Marsilius Visiting Professorship for Science Communication, which he is taking forward at Ruperto Carola in the 2023/2024 winter semester. The programme of the visiting professorship – a joint initiative of Holtzbrinck Berlin, the Klaus Tschira Foundation and Heidelberg University – aims to train young researchers, in particular, to put their scientific work across to the general public and contribute to a societal dialogue on the significance and responsibility of scholarly activity. Martin Enserink will also give a public lecture on the need for independent, critical reporting about science.

Siebte Nature Marsilius Gastprofessur 2023 - Martin Enserink

Some cases of misconduct in research only come to light when someone dares to bring them to public attention. Yet what does this mean for those who make their suspicion public and how do institutions react if possibly fictional studies or falsified experiments are reported to the internal oversight bodies? Would it be right to turn to the press? And how do journalists deal with these sensitive cases? At a workshop, Martin Enserink will talk with Swedish scientist and whistle-blower Dr Josefin Sundin about what they have learned from cases of misconduct that became public. Prof. Dr Joachim Kirsch, ombudsman at Heidelberg University for research integrity in the life sciences, will present the institutional perspective. Further workshops will deal with the professional fields of science journalist and science communicator, and fundamental aspects of science communication such as handling the media or communicating research findings to a non-expert public.

After graduating in biology at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) Martin Enserink embarked on a career as a journalist. Since 1999 he has been working for “Science” magazine, initially at its headquarters in Washington D.C. (USA), and then as a correspondent and news editor in Paris (France). Today the deputy news editor at “Science” lives in Amsterdam (Netherlands). Martin Enserink’s main areas of interest include global health, infectious diseases, research ethics, scientific misconduct and research financing. As part of a training programme by the World Federation of Science Journalists, he mentored African journalists for two and a half years and, together with a colleague, established an online training course entitled “Covering Ebola”.

The Nature Marsilius Visiting Professorship for Science Communication is a joint initiative of Holtzbrinck Berlin, the Klaus Tschira Foundation and Heidelberg University. The professorship involves inviting well-known experts to the university to hold their own courses at the Marsilius Kolleg on what makes for quality reporting about scholarly research and scientific findings. At the same time, the visiting professors are expected to spark a broad-based discussion about new forms of exchange between academia and the public. Previous holders of the visiting professorship include, most recently, Ionica Smeets, Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim and Michele Catanzaro.

Portrait: Martin Enserink