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Author: VeeEnn Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 18967  
Subject: The More Things Change Date: 12/3/2012 8:44 AM
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So here's something interesting in the context of marty's take on Science By Press Release a while back

I think that one of the flaws of reporting in general, and science reporting in particular, is that they tend to look for paradigm-shifting results, rather than little incremental changes. I remember in my area, medical oncology, there was huge excitement about two forgotten substances, angiostatin and endostatin, about fifteen years ago, generated by a front page article in the New York Times

These were naturally produced substances (which the science press loves) which were being investigated by a charismatic researcher, the late Judah Folkman of Harvard University. They'd purified picogram quantities of these substances by filtering thousands of liters of mouse urine, not really a large-scale chemical engineering technique. Nonetheless, they'd gotten dramatic results in a mouse retina tumor model, with "Oh, wow" pictures.

This stuff was front page news for a couple days, which led to desperate patients and their families calling community oncologists wanting to be treated with this stuff, or at least enrolled in trials, of which there were none at the time the press releases hit. The NIH's News Release at the time is a nice summary of the limitations of science by press release, http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/may98/nci-08.htm .

As might have been predicted, the clinical results to date have been disappointing. Other anti-angiogenesis drugs have been developed, tested, approved by the FDA, marketed, and are used in clinics daily, without any of the media excitement that surrounded angiostatin and endostatin.

I think following the popular scientific press is a poor way to decide either how to treat your cancer, or how to work out at the gym. I'm much more likely to use The Complete Idiot's Guite to Weight Training than the scientific press as a practical resource for the gym.


I came across this blog the other day about just this very thing http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2012/09/11...

I reined in my frisson of excitement at a "science writer" suddenly getting it and remembered my usual MO when reading anything reported in the media........ checking to see if it's a random example of journalistic critical thinking (such as you'd find with Ben Goldacre....not really a journalist but he has a column in the Guardian so counts) or the sort of stuff that Ben alerted me too i.e. the result of a press release.

I "Googled" science by press release and, in addition to the article I read, right behind came..

http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/science_reporting_by_pres...

http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/09/13/0240222/scientist...

....and with no apparent sense of irony..

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120911172302.ht...

Seems that even when writing about low standards in science journalism, the journalists rely on .... press releases.

Vivienne
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