Tag Archives: research

What can reporters learn from the chocolate diet study hoax?

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: BlueRidgeKitties via Flickr

Photo: BlueRidgeKitties via Flickr

You’ve been fooled. You thought eating chocolate while dieting could help you shed the pounds faster because a study supposedly said so, and outlets all over the place covered it – but it was based on an intentionally faulty, hyped study.

At least, that’s the story that journalist John Bohannon, who was the first author, partial architect and promoter of the study, told in a viral io9 piece. The story exploded in social media as readers, journalists, scientists, ethicists and others argued over what he really proved, whether he should have done it and what lessons can be gleaned from the stunt. Continue reading

Journal’s retraction highlights value of keeping ‘a biostatistician in your back pocket’

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Science-retractedA now-retracted study in the journal Science once again reveals how important it is that journalists find appropriate expert sources to weigh in on findings before publishing stories about them.

The well-publicized paper, co-authored by Columbia researcher Donald Green and UCLA graduate student Michael LaCour, suggested that opponents of same-sex marriage were more likely to change their minds after talking with gay and lesbians canvassers. But, as Retraction Watch reported last week, LaCour faked the data. The journal initially posted an “Editorial Expression of Concern” but officially retracted the paper Thursday. Green had specifically requested the retraction, but LaCour does not agree with it. Continue reading

Critically assessing nutritional arguments based on evidence: One journalist’s case study

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: eddie welker via Flickr

Photo: eddie welker via Flickr

Few areas of medical research are as challenging to study as nutrition. Randomized controlled nutrition trials are very difficult to conduct, and individual variation among participants can be much greater than in other areas. Add to that the urgency of the “obesity epidemic” and the multibillion dollar industry of diets, supplements and other weight-loss schemes, and it becomes clear how competing ideologies make it tough to parse the evidence. Continue reading

More interactivity, tips for veterans and newcomers in #AHCJ15 medical research workshop

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Ivan Oransky, M.D.

One of the most popular and longest-running workshop sessions will return to AHCJ’s annual conference in Silicon Valley with an updated presentation that will benefit research reporting veterans as well as those new to – and possibly intimidated by – reporting on medical studies.

In Thursday morning’s session, “How to accurately report on medical research findings,” presenters Ivan Oransky, M.D., vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today and co-founder of Retraction Watch, and Gary Schwitzer, publisher of HealthNewsReview.org, will offer a boot camp on medical study coverage. Instruction will range from evaluating the quality of study findings and discussing benefits and harms to responsibly framing findings in news articles and finding appropriate outside commentary on tight deadlines.

Gary Schwitzer

Gary Schwitzer

“There are never enough opportunities to be trained in or to get a refresher course in how to evaluate studies and evidence,” said Schwitzer, now in his ninth year of presenting this type of workshop at the conference. “I can almost guarantee you’ll get some new, practical, hands-on tools, tips and resources to help you do a better job reporting studies – and some healthy skepticism,” he said. Continue reading

Learning to find – and navigate – the wealth of data online

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Robert Logan, Ph.D.

Robert Logan, Ph.D.

The abundance of data available through PubMed, ClinicalTrials.gov and other National Library of Medicine resources can be overwhelming, especially if you are just learning to dig into medical studies.

But if you stick around for Sunday morning’s sessions at Health Journalism 2015 in Silicon Valley, you can join Robert Logan, Ph.D., a communication scientist at the National Library of Medicine, and Ivan Oransky, M.D., vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today and co-founder of Retraction Watch, as they guide you through these sites and show you how to find and use the information you need for your story – or even to find stories.

Ivan Oransky, M.D.

In an interactive session – bring your laptop! – Logan will show you where to find health and medical information on MedlinePlus.gov, PubMed, PubMed Health and ClinicalTrials.gov.

“MedlinePlus.gov is a gateway to all NLM websites and it is written for patients, the public, and the press,” Logan explained. “Once comfortable with MedlinePlus.gov, health reporters also gain curated access to many of National Library of Medicine’s health information services that are used by medical professionals and scientists.” Then Oransky, who is vice president of AHCJ’s board of directors, will show you how to use what you find in your reporting.

Even if you have attended this Sunday morning session before, Logan and Oransky have updated the presentation to help you take advantage of new features in these sites. “For example, PubMed Health, a rich resource of systematic reviews, has been redesigned and is easier to use,” Logan said. “PubMed Commons is expanding and increasingly provides a place to find critics of (and sources about) current medical research studies.”

Another new feature includes commenting from approved researchers on the PubMed site. “Members will learn how to tap into active conversations among researchers about one another’s work,” Oransky said. “We’ll make finding context, and the right outside sources, super-easy.”

Online registration for the conference ends at noon CT on Wednesday, April 8. The conference hotel’s rooms are sold out, but the AHCJ conference website provides information on nearby hotel options.

Grant will allow comprehensive tracking of journal retractions

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Adam Marcus

Adam Marcus

Ivan Oransky

Ivan Oransky

A $400,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation will be used to create a database of retractions from scientific journals, extending the work done by  Adam Marcus and AHCJ Vice President Ivan Oransky on their Retraction Watch blog.

The grant was awarded to the Center for Scientific Integrity, a nonprofit organization set up by Marcus and Oransky. Continue reading

Senators push for research into prostate cancer

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer

Two U.S. senators have proposed a bill to support research into prostate cancer, calling for “a national strategy to combat prostate cancer.”

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) have introduced the National Prostate Cancer Council Act, which would establish a body made up of federal agencies, patients, and medical experts. It would coordinate prostate cancer research and services across all federal agencies.

Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions

In a press release announcing the legislation, Sessions said, “Testing and early detection are the keys to combat this disease. When identified early, the survival rate for prostate cancer is very high. We need to ensure that we have the most advanced screening tools available and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”

The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer and 29,480 deaths in the U.S. this year. Continue reading

Bi-monthly newsletter focuses on health equity news, resources

Joe Rojas-Burke

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health, working to help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network. Send questions or suggestions to joe@healthjournalism.org or @rojasburke.

Images by Diego Cambiaso and Lauren Wellicome via flickr.

Images by Diego Cambiaso and Lauren Wellicome via flickr.

Health Equity Resources is an impressively thorough roundup of the latest news, research, and events related to health disparities and the social determinants of health. It’s curated and delivered by email twice a month by Carly Hood, a population health service fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute.

What follows is just a sampling of the latest installment – the full version is nine pages and available here, along with past issues. If you’d like to join the list, send an email to Hood at chood@wisc.edu. Follow her on Twitter @cm_hood. Continue reading

What reporters need to know about side effects and drug studies

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Recently, Dr. Ben Goldacre (@bengoldacre), a prominent critic of drug studies, wanted to find out how often side effects reported by users of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins were genuinely caused by the medications.

The study he co-authored concluded that most reported side effects of statins aren’t often due to the drugs themselves, but to other causes. The study generated front-page headlines in the U.K., with an article in The Telegraph declaring, “Statins have virtually no side effects, study finds.”

Outcry ensued. Patients who experienced side effects on statins begged to differ, and Goldacre’s fans wondered if he had suddenly gone soft on pharmaceutical companies.

In response, Goldacre penned a nuanced explanation of the study findings, explaining* that its conclusions were flawed because it was based on incomplete data.

The statin study controversy aside, his blog post makes some key points about how side effects are reported in medical journals that are helpful for health reporters to keep in mind when covering the downsides of new drugs. I’ve boiled some important points down and included them in this tip sheet for AHCJ members.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post used the word “admitting.”

Countering the fog of research

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Image by Mark Robinson via flickr.

Image by Mark Robinson via flickr.

The military uses the phrase “the fog of war” to describe the miscalculations and botched decisions that get made in the heat of combat.

But you need not sign up for active duty to run into foggy thinking. Just call a scientist and interview them about their own research.

One of my favorite examples of this is when researchers conduct observational studies that can’t show cause and effect, yet interpret their findings to reporters as if they do. Continue reading