Science communication

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Finger length 'not a pointer' for future sexual behaviour. Friday February 6 2015 Finger length is related to hormone levels "How to work out if your partner is cheating on you?

Finger length 'not a pointer' for future sexual behaviour

Check their fingers," the Daily Mirror advises. The news comes from research founded on the theory that humans are believed to display two types of mating pattern – one more promiscuous, and the other more monogamous. Previous animal and human studies have already suggested higher testosterone exposure is associated with longer ring to index finger ratios.

To look into this further, the researchers studied two separate samples. The results from the first sample found more men tended towards the promiscuous side, and more women towards the monogamous. The second sample's results found more men have longer ring fingers than index fingers, while roughly equal proportions of women have either similar length fingers or longer ring fingers. You also have to consider how representative people who chose to complete an online survey of sexual behaviour are of the general population. How the Toronto Star massively botched a story about the HPV vaccine — and corrected the record. If there was ever a textbook case in how to botch a health story, the Toronto Star's investigation into the "dark side of the HPV vaccine" is it.

How the Toronto Star massively botched a story about the HPV vaccine — and corrected the record

The report not only misrepresented the science behind the vaccine, but when well-meaning critics (including me) tried to point out the flaws, we were ignored, insulted, or maligned. (See our story below about what unfolded over the last two weeks, or listen to this podcast, this one, or this one.) After the paper initially fumbled its response to public concern, the Star has since tried to correct the record. The paper's public editor criticized the story, and the publisher admitted the Star "failed" its readers. Today, over two weeks after the HPV story ran, the Star announced that the piece would be removed from the internet. These decisions aren't easy for any newsroom to make.

Below is our original story about what was wrong with the Star feature. These tales of suffering and death are awful. The reporters relied on bad data. This study of hype in press releases will change journalism. Many scientists greet the prospect of media coverage with a combination of excitement and trepidation.

This study of hype in press releases will change journalism

The attention can be heady and show the importance of a researcher’s findings. But there’s also the chance that the news media will hype the scientist’s findings. A lab study in rats ending up in the paper with the claim that more bacon jerky could prevent cancer can be embarrassing at best. More importantly, an over-hyped finding, especially in areas related to human health, could mislead readers and patients, some of whom may end up changing their behavior based on unfounded information. It’s easy to point fingers and blame journalists, media-hungry fame seekers or the endlessly hungry news cycle.

Every day, journalists (and bloggers) have to sift through mountains of scientific research to find the best work to report on. Ideally, journalists will see a press release and then read the scientific paper it’s based on and maybe even other related journal articles. Brain Injuries: what NICE doesn't tell you. The title of this post is a play on the title of the magazine "What doctors don't tell you" (a rag so packed to the brim with pseudoscience and anti-vaccine propaganda that it's practically a quack's guidebook, but that's a story for another day).

Brain Injuries: what NICE doesn't tell you

As regular readers will be aware, I believe doctors generally do tell you absolutely what you need to know. Unfortunately, it seems the UK's governing body that assesses among other things, what doctors should tell you, has been resisting calls from a range of experts to inform people who have had brain injuries about a piece of information that could save their life. Nice is the acronym for the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the body that decides the guidelines British doctors should follow. In 2008 Joanna Lane's 31-year-old son committed suicide. Twenty-four years earlier he had suffered a brain injury. Joanna took her case to the ombudsman but again to no avail. If Newspaper Headlines Were Scientifically Accurate.

Researchers: your guide to hitting the headlines - Health News. Friday December 27 2013 This is gonna be the biggest scoop since fish grew legs!

Researchers: your guide to hitting the headlines - Health News

Boffins, are you having trouble communicating the fruits of your labour to a wider audience? Have you spent five thankless years going through stool samples in an attempt to find new treatments for giardiasis only to have your work written up as a single paragraph on page 34 of the Rochdale Observer? Well, worry no more. Drawing on decades of journalistic experience, the Behind the Headlines team has drawn up the definitive guide to getting your work featured prominently on News at Ten. 1. Yes, it's the bread and butter of health journalism. Now as we all know, X very rarely causes Y directly.

It's usually the case that a person with X will end up with Y, but they will also be exposed to A, B, C, D, and indeed J, along the way. Word of advice: forget about cancer. Why not try working backwards? Like a jazz pianist, once you become a bit more confident, you can begin to improvise around the central theme. 2. What a difference a day makes: How social media is transforming scientific debate (with tweets) · deevybee. The seven deadly sins of health and science reporting. Benjamin Franklin said two things are certain in life: death and taxes.

The seven deadly sins of health and science reporting

Another one we could add to this list is that on any given news website and in almost all print media there will be articles about health and nutrition that are complete garbage. Some articles that run under the health and nutrition “news” heading are thought provoking, well researched and unbiased, but unfortunately not all. And to help you traverse this maze – alongside an excellent article about 20 tips for interpreting scientific claims – we will look at seven clichés of improper or misguided reporting. If you spot any of these clichés in an article, we humbly suggest that you switch to reading LOLCats, which will be more entertaining and maybe more informative too. 1. Why? Details: Sometimes it is possible to disprove something confidently, but that mainly works in domains like physics.

Health and nutrition is even worse because it deals with how we interact with our equally messy environment. 2. Why? 3. Why? 4. 5. Whomp! Using invited editorial commentary to neutralize negative findings. Hello there!

Whomp! Using invited editorial commentary to neutralize negative findings

If you enjoy the content on Mind the Brain, consider subscribing for future posts via email or RSS feed. William Hollingworth and his colleagues must been pleased when they were notified that their manuscript had been accepted for publication in the prestigious (Journal impact factor =18!) Journal of Clinical Oncology. Their study examined whether screening for distress increased cancer patients’ uptake of services and improved their mood. The study also examined a neglected topic: how much did screening cost and was it cost-effective? These authors presented their negative findings in a straightforward and transparent fashion: screening didn’t have a significant effect on patient mood. This finding has significant implications for clinical and public policy.

Whomp! Hollingsworth and colleagues were surely disappointed to discover that their article was accompanied by a negative editorial commentary. After some faint praise, Carlson tried to neutralize the negative finding. Lessons from the L'Aquila earthquake. Sex Makes You Rich? Why We Keep Saying “Correlation Is Not Causation” Even Though It’s Annoying. Sex and money: the Bearina IUD, a conceptual intrauterine device design that would incorporate a copper coin.

Sex Makes You Rich? Why We Keep Saying “Correlation Is Not Causation” Even Though It’s Annoying

One of the most effective forms of reversible contraception is the copper IUD. For more information, click the picture. Image: Ronen Kadushin. On Saturday, my Twitter feed alerted me to a totally non-sensationalistic Gawker article called More Buck For Your Bang: People Who Have More Sex Make The Most Money. “Scientists in the adonis-laden European country [Germany] found that people who have sex more than four times a week receive a 3.2 percent higher paycheck than those who have sex only once a week. In the comments section (yes, I know I shouldn’t read them), aside from unnecessary pictures of scantily clad ladies and older white men in suits, several people hypothesize that causation probably goes the other way: people who make more money are able to have more sex. “It is unclear whether this correlation represents a causal relationship,” wrote Drydakis in the paper. Risks of placing scientists 'on message' 17 February 2012Last updated at 17:16 By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News Government science agencies exist to serve the public good and usually do It is more than a little embarrassing for the Canadian government to be accused of "muzzling" its own scientists when it is hosting one of the world's largest scientific conferences in Vancouver.

Risks of placing scientists 'on message'

The allegation made at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting is that there has been unprecedented interference by the Canadian government in the free flow of scientific information. Speakers at the meeting talk of the government's actions as going beyond the general norms of news management on controversial research results. The argument centres on the application of a media protocol set out by the governing Conservatives, shortly after their election in 2008.

The aim of the protocol, according to a leaked internal document, is to ensure that all messages from scientists are along "approved lines". Public good. Evgeny Morozov: The Naked And The TED. The new pamphlet—it would be too strong, and not only quantitatively, to call it a book—by Parag and Ayesha Khanna, the techno-babbling power couple, gallops through so many esoteric themes and irrelevant factoids (did you know that “fifty-eight percent of millennials would rather give up their sense of smell than their mobile phone”?)

Evgeny Morozov: The Naked And The TED

That one might forgive the authors for never properly attending to their grandest, most persuasive, and almost certainly inadvertent argument. Only the rare reader would finish this piece of digito-futuristic nonsense unconvinced that technology is—to borrow a term of art from the philosopher Harry Frankfurt—bullshit. No, not technology itself; just much of today’s discourse about technology, of which this little e-book is a succinct and mind-numbing example.

At least TED Books—the publishing outlet of the hot and overheated TED Conference, which brought this hidden gem to the wider public—did not kill any trees in the publishing process. What Jonah Lehrer reveals about popular science writing » Daniel Bor. Jonah Lehrer is one of the hottest science writers around. But this week, in a dramatic fall from grace, he resigned from his staff position at the New Yorker, and his publisher has removed his latest book, Imagine, from sale. The catalyst for these dramatic events is the fact that he fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan, as uncovered by the online Tablet magazine. I had a few small interactions with Jonah Lehrer in late 2009, and looking back, they perfectly reflected both the reasons for his fame, and his impending troubles. At the time he was in charge of the Scientific American Mind Matters blog, and I was writing a piece for this. In a field where some editors are rather brusque, he in contrast was extremely friendly, complimentary, charming, helpful and supportive.

When I emailed Lehrer to point out this mistake, his reply was that “it was the one fact my editor added in the final draft…” At the time, I simply assumed this was true. Finally, I think the bottom line here is trust. New Yorker's Jonah Lehrer quits over fake Dylan quotes. 31 July 2012Last updated at 01:21 GMT Jonah Lehrer was a rising star at the New Yorker, focusing on science reporting A staff writer for the New Yorker has resigned after he admitted inventing quotes by Bob Dylan in a recent book.

Jonah Lehrer, 31, acknowledged in a statement from his book publisher that some quotes he used did "not exist", and others were misquoted. The resignation came after the online magazine Tablet wrote an in-depth piece on the quotations used in Imagine: How Creativity Works. Shipments of the book, which was published in March, have been halted. The e-book version has been unlisted. Lehrer was already out of favour at the New Yorker, which is known for its thorough fact checking, after he admitted last month having recycled passages for the magazine that he had written for previous publications.

His admission came after Michael Moynihan of the Tablet contacted him about the quotes. "The lies are over now. He has now admitted that he never saw such footage. 'Chemical nonsense': Leading scientists refute Lord Monckton's attack on climate science. A coalition of leading climate scientists yesterday filed a 48-page document to the US Congress refuting an attack on climate science made earlier this year by the Ukip deputy leader, Lord Christopher Monckton. The detailed rebuttal addresses nine key scientific claims made by Monckton, a prominent climate sceptic, to a house select committee hearing in May. It includes the responses of 21 climate scientists who variously conclude that Monckton's assertions are "very misleading", "profoundly wrong", "simply false", "chemical nonsense", and "cannot be supported by climate physics".

Monckton, a former journalist and policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, who has been the deputy leader of the UK Independence party (Ukip) since June, was invited by the Republican party to give evidence to the house select committee on energy independence and global warming. In response to the document, Monckton today told the Guardian: "It is unlikely that Congress will pay much attention to this. Interdira-t-on les prévisions climatiques. What eight years of writing the Bad Science column have taught me. I've got to go and finish a book: I'll be back in six months, but in case it kills me, here's what I've learned in eight years of writing this column. Alternative therapists don't kill many people, but they do make a great teaching tool for the basics of evidence-based medicine, because their efforts to distort science are so extreme. When they pervert the activities of people who should know better – medicines regulators, or universities – it throws sharp relief onto the role of science and evidence in culture.

Characters from this community who wonder why people keep writing about them should look at their libel cases and their awesomely bad behaviour under fire. You are a comedy factory. Don't go changing. Next: the real story of how the world works is much weirder than anything a quack can make up. Pharmaceutical companies can behave dismally. Journalists can mislead the public about the answers of evidence-based medicine, which is bad. Last, nerds are more powerful than we know. Can we trust scientists who give TED talks? I came across an interesting article this morning in Slate questioning recent papers on the “contagiousness” of factors ranging from obesity to divorce.

The papers were published in top journals like the New England Journal of Medicine (I wrote this enthusiastic blog post about the findings back in 2008) and have generated a wide range of media attention, including the TED talk which I’ve embedded below. As far as I know the questions surrounding these papers have been entirely statistical (as opposed to ethical) in nature. Below is the abstract of a critique published in the journal of Statistics, Politics, and Policy earlier this year which nicely outlines the problem of having a high profile paper with a poor stats section: The chronic widespread misuse of statistics is usually inadvertent, not intentional. ”[Christakis and Fowler's] errors are in some places so egregious that a critique of their work cannot exist without also calling into question the rigor of review process,” Travis.

Climate change education can still be part of a slimmed-down curriculum. The Great Beyond: New intelligent design centre launches in Britain. Why I spoofed science journalism. Pornography in hospitals. Journalism warning labels. Journalism Warning Labels. Creationists seek to insert their own brand of 'truth' into education. Not fit for television. In which I continue to whine about crappy science journalism blogging. This is a news website article about a scientific finding. When did announcing science become the same as publishing science? Faked data, unsubstantiated claims, and spirituality add up to a math journal retraction.