The New Scientist is a London-based weekly magazine that specializes in science and technology. First published in 1956, the magazine seeks to “cover international news from a scientific standpoint and ask the big-picture questions about life, the universe, and what it means to be human.” In the last several years, it has played a critical role in dispensing timely, accurate Covid-19 information, and it continues to offer guiding, scientifically grounded articles on controversial topics such as climate change and race. Given this background, The Factual seeks to investigate how reliable articles are from the New Scientist.

How Does The Factual Rate News Sources? 

The Factual analyzes more than 10,000 news stories every day to help readers find the most informative, least-biased articles. Our news-rating algorithm scores each article along four metrics: (1) cited sources and quotes, (2) publication history, (3) writing tone, and (4) author expertise. These scores combine in a weighted average we call a Factual Grade, which ranges from 0–100%. (See our How It Works page to learn more about our algorithm.)

For this study, we analyzed ~1,000 articles each from 240 news sources. The average Factual Grade for the entire dataset was 62.5%. Based on these averages, we can compare the performance of news sites across the media ecosystem. The entire dataset can be explored in greater detail here.

How Factual Is the New Scientist? 

The New Scientist scored an average Factual Grade of 75.4%, placing it in the 96th percentile of our dataset. In fact, the site has the tenth-highest score of any news outlet that we analyzed.

The magazine’s many strengths are captured by The Factual’s algorithm. For example, articles examined in our dataset tend to include extensive and diverse sourcing of information, and authors who write for the magazine demonstrate considerable topical expertise. While many articles also used neutral language and headlines, others, particularly in the site’s opinion section, were more likely to use more biased language.

Like any news source, scores for articles from the New Scientist varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 90%, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is the New Scientist?

One of the metrics The Factual uses is the Writing Tone, which measures how opinionated the writing is in an article. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns and unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. More neutral text receives higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

The New Scientist had an average Writing Tone score of 0.64, placing it in the 55th percentile in our dataset for this metric. This suggests that articles from the New Scientist tend to have a moderately opinionated writing tone. These scores were significantly higher for typical news-related pieces but lower for pieces in the opinion section, which are more likely to incorporate biased or leading language. Examples of such headlines include “Why hope and optimism are crucial for fighting climate change” and “Why your pension may be destroying the planet‚ and how to change that.”

What Is the New Scientist’s Political Bias? 

The Factual classifies news sites by political bias as either Left, Moderate Left, Center, Moderate Right, or Right. This classification comes from third-party assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC). Based on this data, The Factual assigns the New Scientist a Center bias. (AllSides has not yet reviewed the New Scientist.)

MBFC classifies the New Scientist as “Pro-Science,” a designation it gives to sites that consist of “legitimate science or are evidence based through the use of credible scientific sourcing.” While MBFC acknowledges that some sites may exhibit slight political bias at times, they are recognized for adhering to scientific principles and the consensus of the scientific community. MBFC also gives the magazine credit for highly factual reporting, including a clean fact-check record. However, MBFC highlights an occasional tendency for the magazine to use headlines with biased language, such as “The north pole is moving and if it flips, life on Earth is in trouble.”

The New Scientist is clear about its goal to be an impartial provider of information, insisting that it provides a “balanced, impartial viewpoint on the biggest stories as they happen to give you the facts you need.”

Who Owns the New Scientist?

Founded nearly 70 years ago, the New Scientist has undergone a series of ownership changes in the last few decades. Today, it is owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust, a British media company best known for its ownership of the tabloid the Daily Mail. While the Daily Mail is routinely criticized for conservative bias, sensationalist coverage, click-bait headlines, and factual errors, the New Scientist is clearly delineated as a separate publication with complete editorial independence. This change in ownership occurred in December 2021, so it may be too soon to say if and how this ownership structure could impact the coverage of the New Scientist. However, Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere and owner of the Daily Mail and General Trust, has insisted on the editorial independence of the newspapers he owns.

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Why Does It Matter?

News articles always have some bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are helpful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more beneficial to know how factual an article is based on quantifiable metrics that can be seen across the media ecosystem, such as cited evidence, author expertise, and writing tone. This is what The Factual ascertains. 

Reading several, highly rated articles from across the political spectrum helps counter the bias of any news source or story. To have the day’s most factual news stories delivered to your inbox every morning, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

This article was updated on September 21, 2021 to reflect new data.

Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. At The Factual, he leads research efforts that utilize the company's ever growing data on the media ecosystem. He is also a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.