International authority on science and the media, Dr. David Murray to tell aquaculture conference media don’t always provide whole story

HALIFAX — A leading national expert on science, the media and public policy says that policy makers and the public who rely on the media for clear, complete and unbiased information on complex scientific debates are often disappointed. Dr. David Murray will develop these themes in a keynote address to How to Farm the Seas II: The Science, Economics and Politics of Aquaculture on the West Coast, to be held February 15-17, 2001, in Vancouver. Dr. Murray is the Director of Research for the Washington-based Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving media coverage of scientific, medical, and statistical information.

Aquaculture is an industry beset by scientific controversy, at least as it is portrayed in the media, yet Dr. Murray will argue that “when scientific debates come to trial in the court of public opinion, the media all too often act as Prosecutor, Judge, and Jury. Unfortunately, they don’t always provide ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’ Scientific complexity deserves better — as do the policymakers whose decisions require sound scientific information.”

According to Dr. Murray, “More policies are set or deflected by headlines and putative poll results than by scientific publications. Journalism often uses ‘narrative templates’ One of the most common is that of the villain, the victim, and the hero template. Any story that can be arranged into this format will get media attention, often without a great deal of scrutiny as to who, exactly, the respective players are, and by what criteria, exactly, they are assigned their roles. Nevertheless, journalists are ready to assign hats both black and white in order to tell a morally satisfying story.”

Given recent controversies around the science of aquaculture in the media on topics such as the industry’s environmental impact, Dr. Murray’s remarks are sure to generate debate that will reach beyond the conference itself. In addition to his role at STATS, Dr. Murray is Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, and a Congressional Member of the United States Census Monitoring Board.

A joint initiative of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) and the Canadian Aquaculture Institute (CAI), How to Farm the Seas II will take place 15-17 February 2001, at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver, BC. It is the second conference in an AIMS/CAI project to improve both public policy and public understanding with respect to aquaculture nationally. The conference will bring together a team of leading national and international experts to clarify both the strengths and weaknesses of aquaculture, and to discuss the basis for a sensible public policy to govern the industry.

Registration fees for the conference are $275, and a few places remain. For information on how to register for the conference, go to the AIMS website, at


For further information, please contact:

Brian Lee Crowley, President, AIMS: 902-499-1998; [email protected]

Gerry Johnson, Professor, Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI: 902-566-0853, [email protected]