May 7, 1998

Contact: Lew Harris, (615) 343-6866

Vanderbilt scientist, veteran newsman to testify before House Committee on Science


NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Former NASA scientist Rick Chappell and veteran newsman Jim Hartz will testify before a congressional committee May 14 about the gap in understanding between America's scientific community and the news media.

The hearing before the House Committee on Science is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Room 2318 in the Rayburn House Office Building.

As visiting scholars of The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, Chappell and Hartz conducted a yearlong study of the media's portrayal of news related to science and technology. Their report, "Worlds Apart-How the Distance Between Science and Journalism Threatens America's Future," concluded that few scientists have confidence in the media's ability to report science accurately, while most journalists see serious shortcomings in the scientists' ability to describe their work in plain English. The result is that the electorate is ill-prepared to make informed judgments about major issues related to science, health and technology.

Chappell, a space physicist and former chief scientist for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., recently joined Vanderbilt University as an adjunct professor of physics and director of science and research communications. Hartz has frequently chronicled science matters for NBC News and PBS.

This hearing is part of a comprehensive effort, led by House Science Committee Vice Chairman Vernon Ehlers, to develop a new, long-range science and technology policy for the United States.


Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.

For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at

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