Grey Matter

This cultural operation was funded by the Ile-de-France Region as part of the “Science for Everyone” initiative.


Science journalists

Project Managers:
Lucille Negre, Florise Pagès, Mathieu Marion


This project was devised so that students, whether or not they are familiar with what’s known as the “scientific press”, can discuss the conditions of this medium. In a democracy, it is up to citizens and their representatives to decide upon the way in which new knowledge and new technologies should be implemented in the interests of everyone. For this to happen, it is essential that as wide a public as possible has access to information sources that are both objective and relevant and that address both scientific progress and the potential dangers of its applications with equal rigour. Within this framework, scientific news, whether from reviews, the pages of major daily newspapers or specialist websites, is an essential relay. “Grey Matter” is also devised so that participating sixth-form students can develop their thoughts by trying out the necessary and specific work that journalism and science writing demands: what do we understand by “informing” or “current affairs”? How do we describe research that is often complicated and, in most cases, inaccessible to the general public? How do you make the facts speak for themselves, find the right angles, and define a style that is both accessible and precise? We would also like to point out that this project is a golden opportunity for students to delve proactively into the research currently being conducted in Île-de-France, using the “Key Fields of Research” (DIM) funded by the region for field studies and reports (visits to sites, meeting researchers, data analysis). 

Translating science?
What is understood by “specialist scientific media” and what does the profession involve today (what constraints do they face, what media do they work on and what are their rapports with the truth?) Varied examples are selected and analysed with the students. Then, using a series of articles and reports already published by the contributor, the students dissect the qualities required for this kind of exercise. The class is then introduced to the subject it will address: this year, the students will examine what are known as “Key Fields of Research” (DIM): what are the issues at stake, the objectives and the repercussions for society? What means do they have at their disposal, what challenges do they face, and so on. By way of example, the students can choose scientific institutions working on programmes as diverse as mathematical innovations, the conditions for the emergence of life, new therapies, infections, questions surrounding ageing or IT networks.

Editorial board
The students research sources from different origins to sketch an initial portrait of the chosen scientific programme: its site(s), its specialities, its teams, its previous discoveries, its instruments, how it’s run, etc. Divided into groups, the students collect data, select the most relevant and formulate questions. A visit is then organised to one of the laboratory sites (tour of the equipment, meeting the teams). The class can then define a list of potential angles and articles; editorial teams are organised, people from the laboratory to be contacted are listed, a timetable is drawn up. This second phase concludes with the first interviews (by telephone or email).

The news factory
The students can then develop their ideas into polished articles and reports. Each time, the teams present their projects to the contributor who validates the angles, discusses proposals, the choice of style (in-depth articles, interviews, polemical articles) and the media (paper, video, audio, etc.). The different drafts are first discussed in class then re-written by the respective groups. Each time, the finalised projects are distributed in the students’ schools, offering analyses, reports, accounts and portraits of research currently underway.



Grey Matter