(UPDATED/2*) What Ho? A 2014 List of Lists of best, worst, or otherwisest in 2014


Well, hello again. Charlie here and does time not fly?

  An unexpected email arrived the other day from Paul Raeburn, head and sole surviving blogger for the KSJ Tracker as the curtain closes on its run of 8+ years. A successor of some sort is promised by the powers-that-be but it is still a secret in on which I am not. Paul invited one last post on the top science news events of the year as judged by publications, websites, and other organizations or individuals who follow our beats closely. Paul’s email took note of a recent post from Tabitha (Tammy) Powledge. 

I had not seen it. She did a preliminary selection with more to come. Tammy includes a shout-out for the Tracker’s productions of years past. It is the wisest kind of praise: grossly exaggerated, lavishly appreciated. Thank you Tammy. I told Paul yes I’ll do it.  So, blowing the dust off the fingers that have forgotten – since being shown the door in August-  how to write these things without scratching my head….

List of Lists of Science News Standouts in 2014 (aka a display of inconsistent opinion about such things. ) Is it not ironic that this list of lists pertaining to science lacks one of science’s key signs of being on the right track – replicability. Nonetheless, there are some vague patterns including several nods to the ebola virus in parts of West Africa and to the Rosetta mission to a comet. 

  • Science News: Ebola, rosetta, e-cigarettes and more top stories of 2014; 25 in all. My earlier lame-brained fast tour in pursuit of lists led me to take these stories as reprints of earllier-published one. Many apologies. These are freshly written for the year-end issue, I have learned, chosen by writers who looked freshly over the years events to choose top examples from science journalism sub-beats. Also worth reading:  Managing Editor Tom Siegfried reflects on the list, and editor in chief Eva Emerson (that’s right, in a round-about way Tom and Eva swapped jobs over the past year) parses some of the oddities about such lists. Science News goes first  on my List of Lists simply because of a confluence of interest. After my regular tracker gig evaporated in August a pitch to Science News got my funk under control (the freelance story – my first in a year – is due out in the latter half of January).
  • AAAS Science Magazine : Top 10 breakthroughs of 2014 ;  Number one is the Rosetta Mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as described by staffer Eric Hand. A separate runners-up article fills out the list to ten. More important perhaps to journalists, the Science staff put together a speculative list of incipient discoveries to look for this coming year. The journal also has a podcast conversation between online news editor David Grimm and staffer Sarah Crespi,
  • Grist – Tim McDonnell: Worst Science Stories of 2014 ; Mostly about nonsense from crackpots and elected officials. Amusing to those sharing (me! me!)  the perspective the list reflects.
  • The GuardianThe 12 most important moments in science in 2014. Not in order of importance, but chronological and with nothing about Ebola – remarkably. The list’s authors are a bunch of scientists, each of whom gets to name her or his fave. Ergo, one is unsure what this list means other than here is a pile of interesting stuff.
  • CBC (Canada) Quirks & Quarks – Bob McDonald: Top 10 science stories of 2014. Rosetta #1, and #2 is discovery of a long lost ship’s hulk sunk in the Arctic.
  • Discover Magazine : Top 100 ; With a focus on top ten. Big story: Ebola. My apology for somehow (easily actually, due to occasional brain cramps) initially connecting to LAST year’s list.
  • RealClearScienceHank Campbell: Top 10 Science Stories of 2014; Rosetta at #1, Ebola #2, with others including biggest dino yet, an enlargement of the genetic code (in a lab), another explanation of ball lightning, and two major science foul-ups (inflation of BICEP’s evidence for cosmic inflation, and a scammy news blast on pseudo embryonic stem cells).
  • Australasian Science (Australian Science Media Centre) : Top 10 Science Stories of 2014 ; From down under, one of the more sober roundups in this lot. Other than a silly item called “The roots of sex were seen to be sideways,” which I am citing for its eyeball bait ‘sex’, this does reflect news that can be expected to have legs.
  • on the other hand dept: Australian Science Media Centre: Top ten weirdest science stories 2014. Horrors – that hed is redundant! Strike the word “top” and thanks to the superlativeness implied by “weirdest,” its meaning does not change. This list is slap-dash pretty much top to bottom.
  • … to be continued

First, a few assertive lists of top environmental stories of 2014:

  • Mongabay News – Rhett Butler, Jeremy Hance: Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014 ; . Mongabay is an established outlet with ambiguous journalism credentials. It is an advocacy organization devoted to preserving biodiversity and wildness with tropical forests its true love. That said, seems honest. It’s #1 is “The Year of Zero Deforestation Pledges: meaning not zero pledges, but pledges to stop deforestation by agencies and industries in such chain-saw wielding nations as Indonesia. The US-China vow to collaboratively cut greenhouse emissions is on the list, so is the continued assassination of indigenous enviro leaders, a drop in tree cutting in Brazil, and droughts in many places.
  • Mongabay News – same writers as above but with a cheerier flavor: Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2014;
  • Weather.com – Annie Hauser: Top Environmental Health Stories of 2014; Fracking worries including air and water pollution, coal plant emission standards, bad drinking water generally, heat waves, and others that one might well guess are on it. But some are below the public’s radar: algae in Lake Erie, a mosquito-borne disease lands in the US, and rising allergy rates. Ebola makes it, too, as does a spike in enterovirus and flu virus mutation, but why these are distinctly environmental rather than random epidemiology events is unclear.
  • People’s World – Marc Brodine: The top ten environmental stories of 2014: Very lefty in spots, of course, but other problems are more distinct. Some of these sort of fit the usual “top stories” metric such as the latest IPCC report and the California drought. But most of this is a compendium of recent examples of running, chronic issues such as degradation of oceans and international climate negotiations that “continue, with more hope.” Also listed: Republican fondness for denying need for worry about climate change. That is not new news particularly distinctive to 2014.
  • Eco-Business – Vaidehi Shah: The top 5 green building stories in 2014; A list for green infrastructure geeks. Cannot find out for sure, but Eco-Business appears to have hq in Singapore. Its list is distinctly weighted toward Asia and the Western Pacific.
  • Earth Island Journal – Jason Mark: The Most Important Environmental Stories of 2014; Mark is this Berkeley-based pub’s editor. He calls the list his personal good, bad, and the ugly. He is US policy-centric. Tops is Obama’s executive orders on power plant emissions followed by the US-China handshake on emissions cuts. Also, mini essays on oil train accidents, vibrancy of climate movement, continued wildlife decline in range and numbers, a plastic bag ban, and the surprising continued expansion of wolves across a nation that Mark appears to feel is infested by too many bipedal idiots who applaud the shooting of wolves

* Second Update:  a few more best-of-science and other lists.

  • Wired – Staff: The Best and Worst in a Tumultuous Year for Science ; You gotta click through a series of images with fat captions to see the list’s contents. Tops is the Rosetta probe and its comet-landing probito, Phylae. Second and third are a science falter and a fail – the sort of maybe who knows? Bicep2 telescopic discovery of a big bang gravity wave polarization fingerprint thing, and what experts say is a fraudulent report on stem cells.
  • Wired – Nick Stockton: The Creepiest Science and Nature Stories of 2014 ; Yep, the face mite is here. Other items include fanged deer, underwater spiders that eat fish, and alligators in trees.
  • Not Exactly Rocket Science – Ed Yong: Top Science Longreads of 2014 ; A shaming reminder to those (me included) who don’t take the time to find substantial stories of science on line that we should. Yong writes, “Despite much hand-wringing about how the internet is killing journalism/reading/civilization, I see a constant stream of great long pieces .. by writers who are at the top of their game and published by organisations willing to pay well.”

* Third Update : Department of Space Science Forecasting:

  • (with hat tip to Nancy Atkinson) Universe TodayDavid Dickinson: 10 Space Science Stories to Watch in 2015 ; A list to goad a few space science writers no doubt to circle a few dates (more likely, cloud them into their e-calendars),  including two impending gravity wave detector news spots, one that is a lock to happen (Happy 25th for Hubble), one that is pure engineering but still cool (SpaceX to do a tail-down landing of a booster on to a customized floating one-port spaceport, and at number one, Alan Stern’s mechanical love child, the New Horizons probe, is to speed close past Pluto after spending more than eight years in transit – only to arrive at a place that is no longer deemed to be a proper planet. 

* Fourth Update (Jan 3) A Huge One I somehow missed till Rosie Mestel, chief editor of the following highlighted pub, made a polite nedge

  • A  multi-part and terrific production, all from Nature, an outlet I should never have missed until now (Jan 3. Read the whole table of contents. Here are some highlights and individual links for your perusal: 1) Nature’s 10: Profiles of people who were instrumental in making science news this year. 2) 2014 in Science, Staffers select the news events that caught their special attention, plus a timeline of wins and losses by scientists; 3) Most-read Nature news stories of 2014 ; 4).Images of the Year (a fave with yours truly – startling image of a volcanic ashfall’s aftermath in Japan); 5) Nature’s top features –  long reads  ;6). Also here is an Editor’s Choice with a pay wall I cannot penetrate while on the road. 7. Comment pieces of the year ; 8, Top ten Books and Art ; 9) Science in 2015, featuring a graphic depiction of resources that are going into science this coming year, and 10) What to Expect in 2015 as the fruits of science investments past.

Amen. Surely a few good ones are still missing. Suggestions welcome to petit[at]nasw.org



8 Replies to “(UPDATED/2*) What Ho? A 2014 List of Lists of best, worst, or otherwisest in 2014”

  1. Boyce Rensberger

    Seeing Charlie’s name here reminds me of the excellent piece about the KSJ Tracker that Jack Shafer, Slate’s excellent media critic, wrote a few years back. In it hewrote:

    “The hardest-working press critic in the country is Charles Petit, the lead writer at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker blog. ”

    Shafer went on to say, “KSJ Tracker is such a good idea that other foundations and universities should pinch the idea” for other specialties in journalism.

    Such a good idea that the new managers of the Knight Fellowship decided to kill it.


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