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Medicine The Media Science

Scientists Themselves Play Large Role In Bad Reporting 114

Hugh Pickens writes "A lot of science reporting is sensationalized nonsense, but are journalists, as a whole, really that bad at their jobs? Christie Wilcox reports that a team of French scientists have examined the language used in press releases for medical studies and found it was the scientists and their press offices that were largely to blame. As expected, they found that the media's portrayal of results was often sensationalistic. More than half of the news items they examined contained spin. But, while the researchers found a lot of over-reporting, they concluded that most of it was 'probably related to the presence of ''spin'' in conclusions of the scientific article's abstract.' It turns out that 47% of the press releases contained spin. Even more importantly, of the studies they examined, 40% of the study abstracts or conclusions did, too. When the study itself didn't contain spin to begin with, only 17% of the news items were sensationalistic, and of those, 3/4 got their hype from the press release. 'In the journal articles themselves, they found that authors spun their own results a variety of ways,' writes Wilcox. 'Most didn't acknowledge that their results were not significant or chose to focus on smaller, significant findings instead of overall non-significant ones in their abstracts and conclusions, though some contained outright inappropriate interpretations of their data.'"
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Scientists Themselves Play Large Role In Bad Reporting

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  • Press Releases? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2012 @08:44AM (#41322387)

    To be fair, university press releases are not written by the scientists who did the research, and in my experience the scientist often doesn't even get the chance to proof and correct them. I myself had my 15 minutes of international fame several years ago (the phone literally didn't stop ringing, interview requests from around the world, etc), all on account of a shockingly inaccurate press release from the university about some interesting but not earth-shattering research that I did.

  • by cheesecake23 ( 1110663 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @01:01PM (#41325413)

    OK, it might take more energy to make a solar panel than we'll ever get back from it, but ...

    Will you JUST FUCKING STOP spreading this lie? The energy payback time for photovoltaic modules according to most studies is between 1-4 years [], depending on the material and manufacturing process used. Their technical lifetime is 25 years or more.

    (I know I'm late to the party and hardly anyone will read this, but this is for the three of you who will.)

I've got a bad feeling about this.