The Discovery Channel has been frequently criticized for its shows centering around mermaids, megalodon, and other other docufictions that fall far more into the ‘entertainment’ category than ‘science,’ but now there’s going to be a change, according to the channel’s new Chief. Rich Ross says that fake science and attention grabs (like the show about the man being ‘eaten alive‘ by an anaconda) are out. However, while these fake documentaries are responsible for much of the criticism the network faces, one scientist is responding, saying that this isn’t enough.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Ross spoke at a Press Tour on Thursday, and said that many of the shows were ratings grabs, and that they went against the network’s science-and-nature branding. He said that shows that had already been planned would go forward, but that he wouldn’t sign off on new shows of the fake-science sort while he was heading Discovery Channel.

However, David Shiffman, a marine scientist who specializes in shark science, says getting rid of the fake documentaries is not enough. He’s watched Shark Week since its beginning, and, according to Pacific Standard, was once invited to be a part of the annual programming event. Instead, he’s worked to tell viewers about the misinformation spread by some of the shows.

Now that the shows are going, he’s written an open letter asking for something more from the network: he’d like them to turn the focus of Shark Week away from spreading fear of sharks, as well as misinformation (he says that approximately half of the information given in the shows is factually inaccurate), and instead, focus on how amazing sharks (and shark scientists) are.

[F]ocus your future programming on the amazing behaviors and biodiversity of sharks and on the incredible and diverse people who work hard to study and protect them!

Shiffman says that the Discovery Channel’s programming choices in recent years have burned bridges with the scientific community, but he believes that there is a chance to mend those bridges, and it starts with completely changing the formula of Shark Week.

[photo credit: jbylund]