Oversimplified, yet fair, delivery to a broad audience regarding Karen Uhlenbeck's Abel Prize by the New York Times
The story focused on two topics: that Karen Uhlenbeck is the first woman to win the Abel Prize for mathematics, and that Uhlenbeck pioneered techniques of geometric analysis. Some history of the Abel prize, as well as Uhlenbeck’s personal career were included in the article, but it did not fully address questions about why and how Uhlenbeck became the first women to win the Abel Prize. While the story attempted to explain work from Uhlenbeck’s career, both known and unknown facts were not used to support understanding of her research, the language used over-simplified and colloquial at times, and an analogy comparing her mathematical methods to the study of tension in soap bubbles was not justified by noting values and limitations of the analogy. While author information is publicly available, links to primary sources such as Uhlenbeck’s research and the press release from the Abel Committee are not present in the story. The story did a fair job at delivering the news story to its intended audience in a neutral way, although clarity and understanding of the topic was not explicit in the story.
The news article mentions that Uhlenbeck is the first women to receive the Abel prize but gives no context for how and why this is the case. Although, the article does follow through on the intent of supporting the statement “Dr. Uhlenbeck helped pioneer geometric analysis, developing techniques now commonly used by many mathematicians” contained in the subtitle. For this reason, both a positive and negative mark were given to the article.
The articles that the news story draws information from are some of the works of Karen Uhlenbeck. The story tries to simplify and describe her mathematical discoveries and manages to explain clearly the value and process of her research. An analogy of soap bubbles is made that does not accurately justify or present her research. A bonus is that perspective quotes are taken from two mathematicians that were not mentioned in the original press release of the prize, or from following press releases from the Abel Committee.
The news story contains vague statements about the research of Uhlenbeck that does not explain the context and difficulties of her research: ex. “But the answers sometimes seemed to blow up to infinity. She was able to recast the problem in a way that removed the infinities.” In this example, “the answers” does not reference any specific problem or claim made in the news story and there is no further sources to attempt to explain. There are also claims that “She did things nobody thought about doing,” and “The theory becomes dramatically harder, and standard techniques just don’t work,” but no background information was provided about techniques or methods which Uhlenbeck was able to surpass. As well, the statements of Uhlenbeck’s research are vague and do not provide necessary background information to begin understanding why she deserved the Abel prize.
The research article referenced in the marking index is considered to be the original press release from the Abel Committee, where no link can be found to it from the story. Furthermore, a social media prompt interrupts the story—in addition to prompts at both the beginning, end, and side of the article.
The article scored described Karen Uhlenbeck—the first woman to win the Abel prize in mathematics. This was attributed to her history in geometric analysis, and her contributions to the field. The article does well in describing her past and the personal aspects of her life but falls short in technical details. Known and unknown facts were largely ignored in the piece, which is important in understanding the context behind her work and the reason behind why her work was so important. There were no direct links to what areas of her research she was being awarded for, with vague terms describing research areas and problems that she had solved.
The title isn’t clickbait and is representative of the article. There is no personal opinion from the author, and multiple perspectives are given with no discernable preference for any. Another positive is that the news story mentions article intent, and correctly describes the article’s intent. The results and claims of her research are described, but often oversimplified into analogies. The research article in question is from a reputable source (Abel Committee) and independent sources are used in the article. While able to interpret observations correctly the article doesn’t describe the known and unknown; it is mentioned several times that Karen brought forward revolutionary approaches, without explaining the context in which these solutions are needed. Gaps in reasoning exist with general claims made of her research, for example “The universe is often lazy, looking for solutions that take the least amount of energy.” A similar reasoning applies to why article results are “oversimplified”.
The sources used are listed, stated, and publicly available. However, the original research article (which in this case is the Abel Committee’s announcement) is not linked in the article. There is also no link to any of Uhlenbeck’s research. There are many advertisements present on the web page, which often disrupting the focus of the reader, in addition to far too many social media prompts.
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