Media accounts of medical research are often based on unpublished results at professional conferences and omit important information, say Dartmouth researchers. Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, they say that journalists often omit basic study facts, such as their size or design. Many times they overlook the limitations of studies. For example, only 6% of news stories about animal studies reported that the results might not apply to humans. And only 2 out of 175 articles about unpublished reports mentioned that they were unpublished.
However, not all the fault is the media’s, say the authors. Researchers benefit from the attention because it is a mark of academic success, their academic affiliates benefit because good publicity attracts patients and donors, and research funders — public and private — benefit when they can show a good return on their investments. The meeting organisers benefit too; extensive media coverage attracts more advertisers, and higher profile scientists for the following year, guaranteeing more dramatic report and ultimately more press.”
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