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Scientific research in the news

(14 Posts)
suzikettles Fri 14-Jan-11 10:37:32

Am I being unreasonable to think that if scientific journals/researchers/institutions send out a press release about a subject which provokes huge media coverage (I'm thinking of the "6 months EBF will harm your baby" headlines), that the original article should be put in the public domain, at least for a period of time, for the public to read for themselves?

I've read the BMJ article because I have access and some of the reporting, presumably from a press release, is extremely inflammatory. Most people wouldn't be able to do this which just feels very wrong.

Habbibu Fri 14-Jan-11 11:04:23

YANBU. But people do need help in interpreting academic articles, so intelligent thoughtful journalism wouldn't go amiss.

Chil1234 Fri 14-Jan-11 11:05:07

I agree with you. Time after time the journos get the original research, take a quick glance at the front page summary and, by the time it hits one of the tabloid rags, the effect of so much distillation and dumbing down is that the headline bears little resemblence to the study results. Then again, I have the awkward feeling that most members of the public would not be bothered to wade through pages and pages of a scientific study either.

KittyFoyle Fri 14-Jan-11 11:10:53

I agree the problem isn't the study which is trying to further knowledge, even if the results seems contradictory. That is how we progress after all. The press is the problem. Lack of responsible and intelligent journalism, but also the public (not MN clearly but generally) are more taken with sensationalism than calm analysis. Vicious circle. It seems obvious the study isn't objecting to BF but suggesting that earlier introduction of other foods might not be as harmful as recently thought and in fact be beneficial. It doesn't say stop breastfeeding and start pureeing Big Macs.

LurcioLovesFrankie Fri 14-Jan-11 13:38:29

Brilliant spoof of science reporting here - and for once the comments after the article enter into the spirit of things.

www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/ sep/24/1

suzikettles Fri 14-Jan-11 14:24:40

I sometimes wonder if even the journos get the full text or if they base their piece purely on the Press Release which is unlikely to have been written by one of the original writers, so yet another step removed.

Chil1234 Fri 14-Jan-11 14:38:00

No need to wonder... most journalism today is a lazy copy/paste affair. Few articles are original. A slip of the pen in one publication and it gets replicated ad infinitum everywhere else. 'Chinese whispers'

TrillianAstra Fri 14-Jan-11 14:40:01

YANBU

CatIsSleepy Fri 14-Jan-11 14:41:45

most scientific research doesn't really lend itself to soundbite headlines, it's generally a lot more complex than that

unfortunately complexities don't make for good headlines

suzikettles Fri 14-Jan-11 14:56:01

ps I absolutely agree that academic articles often need to be "translated" for general public consumption, but as the Press seems reluctant, or unable within their budgetary/editorial contraints, to do this responsibly then it's even more important that the original work is in the public domain.

CatIsSleepy Fri 14-Jan-11 15:00:12

not sure scientific journals would make any money if they made all their new content available for free

suzikettles Fri 14-Jan-11 15:02:47

Not all their new content. Only content that they were pushing with shock/horror press releases...and maybe only for a limited time, say 2 weeks after press release issued.

Forgive me if I don't weep for scientific journals [librarian whose journal budget is going down again, yet subs are busting inflation yet again]

cat64 Fri 14-Jan-11 15:04:13

Message withdrawn

Habbibu Fri 14-Jan-11 15:44:27

CatisSleepy, there's been much debate about this - academic work is largely publicly funded, so there's a claim to it there, and as the publication of a quasi-public body, may be subject to FoI regulations. Many universities are making publications, either published or pre-print, available via institutional repositories, although that's not widely known to the public. So there are some precedents for this sort of access. I do think the standard of scientific journalism needs to be much higher, but also the pressure on uni press officers and academics to be in the media is very high - stupidly so, and this kind of thing is the result.

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