Too much good news? Media coverage of biomedicine overly optimistic, study says

good news

It often feels as though today’s health headlines are some scientific version of Mad Libs. And now there’s a study that provides evidence for that hunch.

[R]esearchers at the University of Bordeaux, France, have connected the dots with a study that shows the extent of the problem.

Their analysis of media coverage indicates that studies written about in newspapers [especially those on biomedicine] are highly likely to be later overturned.

“This is partly due to the fact that newspapers preferentially cover ‘positive’ initial studies rather than subsequent observations, in particular those reporting null findings,” the researchers note.

Hence phenomena like the 2003 study in Science on how stress and genetics are linked to depression that garnered 50 newspaper stories, plus another nine articles when two subsequent studies appeared to confirm the finding. But “newspapers never covered the eleven subsequent studies that failed to replicate this genetic association,” according to the authors.

We hardly need to prove the argument that the public can seize on news stories about flawed or unreproduced science, especially biomedicine, with unfortunate consequences.

To be fair, they also note that although reporters bear the brunt of the blame here, scientists also are at fault. As any science journalist can attest finding objective sources to put a new study into the appropriate context is challenging at best.

[The study can be found here.]

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Reader beware: Science covered in the news is pretty likely to be overturned

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