Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Important Study Facts Often Missing In Media Reports About Medical Research

Date:
June 11, 2006
Source:
Dartmouth Medical School
Summary:
News stories about medical research, often based on initial findings presented at professional conferences, frequently omit basic facts about the study and fail to highlight important limitations, warn Dartmouth researchers in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia. Such omissions can mislead the public and distort the actual significance of the research, they caution.

News stories about medical research, often based on initial findings presented at professional conferences, frequently omit basic facts about the study and fail to highlight important limitations, warn Dartmouth researchers in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia. Such omissions can mislead the public and distort the actual significance of the research, they caution.

Dr. Lisa Schwartz and Dr. Steven Woloshin, both Associate Professors of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School (Hanover, New Hampshire) and at the VA Outcomes Group (White River Junction, Vermont), writing in the June 4, 2006 issue of MJA, studied media coverage of research presented at scientific meetings.

"Scientific meetings are an important forum for researchers to exchange ideas and present work in progress. But much of the work presented is not ready for public consumption," said Schwartz. "The studies have undergone limited review and findings may change substantially by the time the final report is published in a medical journal." And, she noted, "Some meeting presentations are never published at all."

Nonetheless, scientific meeting research receives extensive news media coverage. "Unless journalists are careful to provide basic study facts and highlight limitations the public may be misled about the meaning, importance and validity of the research", said Woloshin. For their study, the team analyzed newspaper, TV and radio stories that appeared in the US for research reports from five major scientific meetings in 2002 and 2003 to see if basic study facts (eg., size, design) were reported; whether cautions about inherent study weaknesses were noted; and if the news stories were clear about the preliminary stage of the research.

The researchers found that basic study facts were often missing. For example, a third of reports failed to mention study size; 40% did not quantify the main result at all.

Important study limitations were often missing. For example, only 6% (1/17) of the news stories about animal studies noted that results might not apply to humans. And only 2 of 175 stories about unpublished studies noted that the study was unpublished. Schwartz and Woloshin, who frequently present to the media on how to understand and accurately report research results, say that while reporters can and should do better, another reason for misinterpreted or "over-hyped" research is its early release at professional meetings that reporters are encouraged to attend.

"It is not hard to understand why research presented at scientific meetings garners extensive media attention," they write. "Researchers benefit from the attention because it is a mark of academic success, their academic affiliates benefit because good publicity attracts patients and donors, and research funders – public and private – benefit when they can show a good return on their investments. The meeting organizers benefit too; extensive media coverage attracts more advertisers, and higher profile scientists for the following year, guaranteeing more dramatic reports and ultimately more press."

Moreover, they note, "the public has a strong appetite for medical news and scientific meetings provide the media with an easy source of provocative material."

Given the reality that a decrease in media coverage of scientific meetings is not likely, the authors urge reporters and editors to make sure their stories include three things: (1) basic study facts: what kind of study was done, how many subjects were included, what was the main result; (2) cautions about study designs with intrinsic limitations; and (3) clear statements about the preliminary stage of the work under discussion.

Drs. Woloshin and Schwartz were supported by Veterans Affairs Career Development Awards in Health Services Research and Development and Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Faculty Scholar Awards. This study was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute and from a Research Enhancement Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dartmouth Medical School. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Dartmouth Medical School. "Important Study Facts Often Missing In Media Reports About Medical Research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060611100745.htm>.
Dartmouth Medical School. (2006, June 11). Important Study Facts Often Missing In Media Reports About Medical Research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060611100745.htm
Dartmouth Medical School. "Important Study Facts Often Missing In Media Reports About Medical Research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060611100745.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins