Home > Basic Science > Extra! Extra! Bad Science Writing!

Extra! Extra! Bad Science Writing!

It seems I’m not the only one who thinks Science reporting has gone way downhill.

This week, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Otis Brawley, wrote to CNN expressing his concern over the quality of science writing.

Dr. Otis Brawley

He cites the problem of medical conferences increasingly becoming venues for medical companies to showcase their products. Investors are always looking to put money into a potential cure to who-knows-what, so these companies over-hype their product with scientific studies.

The findings of these studies are often overblown, and then get picked up by the media. We can all relate to these sensationalized headlines…

It seems almost every week there is a headline that reads: “Chocolate Cures Cancer, study finds”. So we gorge ourselves on chocolate, until the following weak when the headline reads: “Chocolate causes Cancer, study suggests”. Scary.

Brawley thinks that the recent economic downtown has led to the layoff of many experienced science reporters, to be replaced with fresh out of school interns who don’t know ass from elbow (I paraphrase).

Enthusiastic writers latch onto the overblown claims of medical companies and report upcoming cures for breast cancer, AIDS vaccines etc.

Although not technically wrong, these goals are well into the future and in many cases have only been observed in mice or other lab animals, which unfortunately do not often translate well to human physiology. These details are, of course, left out of the newspaper article.

So the public is getting misled and getting their hopes up about new cures and treatments to every ailment under the sun.

If such a prominent physician is starting to notice the horrendous scientific reporting that has been occurring, then it is certainly time for a change.

Luckily, thanks to technology, there is a hope. One of the greatest resources for scientific news and commentary is the Blogosphere. There are innumerable science blogs out there from those more credible than yours truly, who really care about their topic of expertise and would love nothing else than for you, the layman, to read their opinions and gain some more scientific knowledge for yourself. A few of my favourites are Science-Based Medicine, Bad Astronomy and NeuroLogica.

Its all out there, and its free with your internet access. Use it.

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