Monday June 24 at 12:00-15:00
The aim of the workshop is to provide tools for science journalists for reporting on animal cognition research in an exciting yet accurate way.
New findings about animal intelligence, communication, and emotions have intensive media appeal. However, there are also pitfalls with potential to misinterpret the research results. Sometimes the findings can be more exciting than what they first appear to be.
The workshop will include an introduction to the current state of animal cognition science, and an in-depth look at a few cases. The participants will be invited to discuss each of these in the context of their own work, whether they are journalists or from other areas of science or society.
The introduction will provide an overview on the current knowledge of the cognitive abilities of animals. What does a dog see when looking at its owner’s face? Do fish feel pain? What are the limits of chimpanzee intelligence?
A specific emphasis will be on the research methods behind the results. How do you objectively measure the emotions of a pig? How can you distinguish between reliable and shaky research? How do you recognize ethical issues in research methods?
The case studies will delve deeper into three studies. The African grey parrot called Alex became famous for its ability to use symbols and syntax, but what do the results actually reveal about what was going on in that feathery head? Empathy is one of the phenomena increasingly studied in mammals, but which animals really possess this trait, which was long believed to be solely human? The third case will be selected shortly before the conference, to reflect some of the newest research results from the previous months.
Helena Telkänranta is a science journalist and non-fiction author specializing in animal behaviour and cognition, evolution and environmental issues. She also is a frequently appearing lecturer, having taught science journalism for biology students and animal behaviour for people of various animal-related professions. In 2008, she won the annual award of the Finnish Association of Science Editors and Journalists. In addition to writing, she is currently involved in research on animal behaviour and cognition at the University of Helsinki. Another interest of hers is creating novel ways to bring science-based knowledge on animal behaviour to a practical level for those in need of it, such as the WEPA project improving handling of Asian captive elephants and safety of their handlers, in which she is co-founder and director.