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Media spinning of research starts with the researchers themselves: A study

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Woolie, Nov 28, 2015.

  1. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

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    Last edited: Nov 28, 2015
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  2. Jeckylberry

    Jeckylberry Senior Member

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    journos all work to put an angle on a story. A biased report probably just hands it to them and makes it easier to draw a conclusion. The researchers obviously found a relationship between the two. Did they offer any insight to the process?
     
  3. SOC

    SOC

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    I can easily see how this happens. A responsible scientist discusses the limitations of the research in the abstract and doesn't dramatize or exaggerate the implications of the result. That kind of cautious realism is not interesting to journalists. The abstracts that make dramatic claims without caveats are much more likely to catch the eye of a journalist unwilling to dig into the paper itself to know what's really going on. Don't think that poor scientists who write those kinds of unclear abstracts don't know exactly what they're doing. :rolleyes:
     
  4. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

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    If you click on the title, you get a link to the fulltext of the article.

    They don't have much to say about whether the spinning of results in abstracts is deliberate or not. All they say in the conclusions is:

     
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  5. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

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    This figure illustrates the main findings quite nicely (and easily for those currently feeling brain-fogged): journal.pmed.1001308.g002.png
     
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  6. SOC

    SOC

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    Duh. This was heavily emphasized to me from the time I did my first review of an undergraduate classmate's research report through every paper I got from a journal to review. It's one of the primary things you look for when doing a review -- do the conclusions accurately reflect the results? What's the point of a review if you don't do something as simple and basic as that? It's a real shame something so absolutely fundamental as this has to be written up as research.

    It appears this is about medical research. Is the quality of science or science education that much worse in medicine than in other fields? If so, why? This is not about the type of research, but about scientific integrity, which shouldn't be different among branches of science. Different fields have different degrees of accuracy and/or precision in the kinds of results that can be achieved, I understand that. But this is about fundamentals of science and basic integrity. That should be universal in scientific research.
     
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  7. barbc56

    barbc56 Senior Member

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    Sometimes the PR department doesn' event run the press release by the researchers. This happened in Colorado where the PR department gave the opposite results of a research study and the researchers got a lot of flack because of the way it was presented.

    The media will sometimes report the PR release word for word.

    Barb
     
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  8. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

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    I suppose this is in the figure, @barb. A small proportion of studies have no spin in the study abstract but get spun at the press release stage (3 out of 21). So its not always the fault of the researchers. But it seems it often is!
     
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  9. Simon

    Simon

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    This is a really interesting study, but I don't wholly agree with the conclusion, or at least not with the implication that removing spin from abstracts would largely fix the problem (though would obviously help stop the study being misinterpreted by other reseachers, clinicians, patients etc who read the abstract for themselves).

    What may well be driving this is not the abstract spin per se, but the researchers intention to spin the results. That is seen first in the abstract, but likely to be seen again in the press release and press briefing, as well as any private chats with journalists too. If journals did their job properly, and ensured that abstracts fairly reflected the research piece, I'm sure that spin in the media would fall. But I also suspect that researchers would put more effort into other ways of communicating with the media to encourage spin in reporting all the same.

    (I'm sure there's some fancy scientific word to describe what I've suggested - it's not exactly confounding - but that what's driving this is something deeper than the abstract spin itself.)
     
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  10. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

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    @Simon, the article does say that they used the abstract as a proxy because it was easier to quantify spin in that than in the full article. But their conclusions were general to the research study as a whole, not specific to the abstract.
     
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  11. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    There's also this study, which gave PACE a clean bill of health for spin from press-release, and only noticed spin in media:

    http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g7015
     
  12. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

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    @esther, interesting paper! Compared to the the PLOS paper, this one seems to have much more limited definition of spin, (had to involved inappropriate advice, or statements of causation)
    The PLOS paper in the current discussion defined spin thus:
    PACE would meet that definition with no trouble at all!
     
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