As promised in a comment on the first post on this topic (part 2 here), the BBC’s Steve Herrmann today responded to the debate surrounding the BBC’s linking policy (or policies).
In it Steve not only invites comments on how their linking policy should develop, but also gives a valuable insight into the guidance distributed within the corporation, which includes the following:
- Related links matter: They are part of the value you add to your story – take them seriously and do them well; always provide the link to the source of your story when you can; if you mention or quote other publications, newspapers, websites – link to them; you can, where appropriate, deep-link; that is, link to the specific, relevant page of a website.
- Where we have previously copied PDFs (for full versions of official reports and documents, for example) and put them on our own servers, we should now consider in each case whether to simply link to PDFs in their native location – with the proviso that if it’s likely to be a popular story, we may need to let the site know of possible increased demand.
“On linking to science papers in particular,” Steve continues,
“we don’t currently have a specific policy, but the simplest principle would seem to be that we should find and provide the most relevant and useful links at time of writing, wherever they are – whether it’s an abstract of a scientific paper, the paper itself, or a journal.
“There is some devil in the detail as far as this goes, though. First and foremost, we’re often reporting a story before the full paper has been published, so there may not yet be a full document to link to; some journals are subscription-only; some have web addresses which might expire.”
The post ends with a series of specific questions about how the BBC should link, from what types of links are most valuable, to where they should be placed, to what they should do about linking to scientific papers and information behind paywalls.
The comments so far are worth reading too, raising as they do recurring issues around ethics (do you link to a far-right political party?) and, in one case, seeing linking as part of “this internal destruction of the BBC, linking out shouldn’t be featured at all”.
It’s a debate worth having, and Steve and the BBC deserve credit for engaging in it.
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I believe that in any news article about a new piece of scientific research there should be a link to the abstract of the original research publication. This would make a helpful start on giving the general public a clearer understanding of how science really works.
Authors of scientific papers try to give enough background in their abstract for it to be understandable to people who have no prior knowledge of the research field involved. This is easier in some fields than others, but the knowledge that their abstract might receive wider attention would be a strong incentive for authors to put real effort into this aspect of their writing.
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