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"Content partnerships have been quite the vogue lately," writes Rick Edmonds at Poynter, as he takes note of a new one between...

"Content partnerships have been quite the vogue lately," writes Rick Edmonds at Poynter, as he takes note of a new one between The Atlantic and what is probably not the first news organization that comes to mind: The Deseret News.

Edmonds writes that this would appear to be a "a long-distance odd couple — the church-owned newspaper in Salt Lake City and the venerable Boston-bred monthly, now based in Washington." An odd couple indeed. He goes on to say that the partnership makes more sense if we acknowledge an "affinity--each is recognized as a leader in digital business model transformation. New approaches to content are part of the innovation formula."

That's a bit too much jargon for me, but I think I get the point...

Looks good, but where are the data?
Faye Flam
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If Poynter blogger Andrew Beaujon had been a science writer, he might have noticed something fishy about the graphs he posted in Why Journalists Drive Scientists Crazy, in Graphs. The...

If Poynter blogger Andrew Beaujon had been a science writer, he might have noticed something fishy about the graphs he posted in Why Journalists Drive Scientists Crazy, in Graphs. The graphs do not appear to be based on any data. There is not a data point to be found.

If data were involved in any way, there’s no mention of where this data came from or how it was obtained. A science writer would ask about the data, and the error bars, for that matter. Are these even really graphs, or just illustrations? Whatever they are, the purpose seems to be to express how one scientist, Sabine Hossenfelder, feels about science journalists. In a blog post, she expresses some frustration.  

And Beaujon seems to agree:

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A study in the journal Bipolar Disorders two weeks ago found that the children of fathers 50 or older had three times the risk of having bipolar disorder compared to children of fathers 30-34 years old.

Bipolar disorder afflicts...

A study in the journal Bipolar Disorders two weeks ago found that the children of fathers 50 or older had three times the risk of having bipolar disorder compared to children of fathers 30-34 years old.

Bipolar disorder afflicts about 1 percent of the general population, so, in very rough terms, the risk of bipolar disorder in the children of these older fathers is about 3 percent.

That's about one in every school classroom with 30 kids. it sounds frightening.

But turn it around and put it this way: The children of those older fathers have a 97 percent chance of not having bipolar disorder. Suddenly the risk sounds quite different.

It's not easy to convey these risks properly to readers, and reporters often get it wrong.

In another study this week on older fathers, researchers found...

Just a week or two ago, in a Northern California Coast gallery, me and my babe while browsing along admired some polished artsy-fartsy carved wood pieces. They had not only beautiful grain but precisely-carved, curling tunnels bored in them big enough to slide a dime through. The clerk said oh, that's worm wood...

Just a week or two ago, in a Northern California Coast gallery, me and my babe while browsing along admired some polished artsy-fartsy carved wood pieces. They had not only beautiful grain but precisely-carved, curling tunnels bored in them big enough to slide a dime through. The clerk said oh, that's worm wood from sinker logs. Before she could go on I mumbled "Oh I know all about that." You know, logs sank from logging operations long ago in marine estuaries, shipworms (teredos) got into them, drilled holes, and eventually some specialty company got hold of them and milled them into this stuff. Turns out of course that was just the smug semi-informed science writer mouthing off (again). I didn't know squat. Nobody does.

    It turns out that some good recent science writing has gone into the topic, at least one from a fellow many tracker readers know, another from a scientist-blogger who also has a decent profile in the trade. Serendipity...

   Is it possible to have a gargantuan engineering and construction project covering large areas of the Earth that has no appreciable downside? Not to the economy, to human health, to wildlife, to worsening things in some way? In fact, that makes them much nicer? Yes, if one reads the press releases and...

   Is it possible to have a gargantuan engineering and construction project covering large areas of the Earth that has no appreciable downside? Not to the economy, to human health, to wildlife, to worsening things in some way? In fact, that makes them much nicer? Yes, if one reads the press releases and paper behind an intriguing paper in Nature Climate Change, one that is getting considerable but not yet immense reaction in media.

   The gist of conclusions published by Stanford civil engineering prof. Mark Z. Jacobson and two U. of Delaware colleagues is that if arrays of very large wind turbines - we are talking about tens to hundreds of thousands of the whirligigs in patches of ocean covering hundreds to thousands of square miles - were built off cities and other developed areas in the likely paths of eventual hurricanes, they would do all sorts of wonderful things. First, they'd disrupt fringe winds of incoming storms and set off a chain of...

Faye Flam
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Profiles of scientists and science policy makers are not easy – or at least it’s not easy to make them relevant, fair and yet engaging. But in a recent issue of Science, I found this opener hard to resist:

David Nutt is trying to develop a new recreational drug that he hopes...

Profiles of scientists and science policy makers are not easy – or at least it’s not easy to make them relevant, fair and yet engaging. But in a recent issue of Science, I found this opener hard to resist:

David Nutt is trying to develop a new recreational drug that he hopes will be taken up by millions of people around the world. No, the 62-year-old scientist isn’t “breaking bad.” In fact, he hopes to do good. His drug would be a substitute for alcohol, to create drinks that are just as intoxicating as beer or whiskey but less toxic. And it would come with an antidote to reverse its effects, allowing people to sober up instantly and drive home safely.

The story, headlined The Dangerous Professor, by Kai Kupferschmidt, stays fascinating to the end, detailing the quest of an Imperial College neuropsychopharmacologist to...

After the Tracker reported on Feb. 14 that The Washington Post was running press releases in its Health & Science section and the paper...

After the Tracker reported on Feb. 14 that The Washington Post was running press releases in its Health & Science section and the paper stopped doing it, the Columbia Journalism Review now argues that the Post's own reporting would likely be no better.

In a piece this morning in The Observatory, CJR's science section, Alexis Sobel Fitts writes that the press releases lack outside sources and "read, quite clearly, like press releases." But "it’s unclear that the in-house study coverage likely to replace it—the kind of quick articles which are often based entirely on the press release—are...

Miles O'Brien, a science and space reporter for PBS and former correspondent for CNN, lost his left arm above the elbow in emergency surgery last week, following a seemingly minor injury caused by a case of camera equipment that fell on the arm.

When O'Brien saw a...

Miles O'Brien, a science and space reporter for PBS and former correspondent for CNN, lost his left arm above the elbow in emergency surgery last week, following a seemingly minor injury caused by a case of camera equipment that fell on the arm.

When O'Brien saw a doctor on Feb. 14th--two days after the accident--the doctor recommended emergency surgery to relieve growing pressure and numbness in O'Brien's arm. "Things tanked even further once I was on the table," O'Brien wrote yesterday in a post on his personal blog. "And when I lost blood pressure during the surgery due to the complications of compartment syndrome, the doctor made a real-time call and amputated my arm just above the elbow. He later told me it all boiled down to a choice…between a life and a limb."

O'Brien wrote that he woke up to "a new reality" in the hospital...

Last summer, Robert McDaniel, a 22-year-old man who lived in a high-crime neighborhood in Chicago, received a surprise visit from Barbara West, a Chicago Police Department commander. McDaniel hadn't committed a crime. He didn't have any gun violations. But West had a folder on him. He was on a list. She...

Last summer, Robert McDaniel, a 22-year-old man who lived in a high-crime neighborhood in Chicago, received a surprise visit from Barbara West, a Chicago Police Department commander. McDaniel hadn't committed a crime. He didn't have any gun violations. But West had a folder on him. He was on a list. She knew that his best friend had been killed, and she told him that the same thing could happen to McDaniel, who had been arrested multiple times but had only one minor conviction.

That anecdote comes from a story in the Chicago Tribune last summer by Jeremy Gorner. Matt Stroud of The Verge picked it up last week...

Clostridium difficile
Paul Raeburn
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Tabitha M. Powledge of On Science Blogs is not happy with the way the FDA has handled fecal transplants, and the FDA is apparently a little unsettled...

Tabitha M. Powledge of On Science Blogs is not happy with the way the FDA has handled fecal transplants, and the FDA is apparently a little unsettled itself.

Experiments with the transfer of fecal matter from healthy people to those with infections of Clostridium difficile have proven remarkably effective at curing this difficult (as its name suggest) and often persistent infection.

Just as this was becoming apparent, however, the FDA classified human feces as a drug, meaning that anyone who wanted to experiment with transplants now had to fill out extensive paperwork. Powledge links to blog posts with various views of this tricky--and interesting--situation.

-Paul Raeburn

Erebus, Nov 2013, Photo by Alasdair Turner
Charlie Petit
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  Those were the days, back when UPI went toe to toe with the AP, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse to cover the world. Even the bottom of the place. In 1979 a packet of newspeople on an NSF-hosted tour of US Antarctic operations finished up and flew back to Christchurch NZ in an Air Force C-141 cargo plane. I...

  Those were the days, back when UPI went toe to toe with the AP, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse to cover the world. Even the bottom of the place. In 1979 a packet of newspeople on an NSF-hosted tour of US Antarctic operations finished up and flew back to Christchurch NZ in an Air Force C-141 cargo plane. I was among'em. So was Ira Flatow. But not the late, indefatigable Al Rossiter, UPI's main scence guy. He had a sinus problem.  The medicos told him not to go up in the ill-pressurized airplane till he got better. Nothing much had happened while the whole group was on the ice (we lapped up the lingo). That is, other than the standard parades to the Pole, to the Dry Valleys, to visit Penguins, and to gorge on fried Antarctic cod thank you U. of Illinois prof. Art DeVries, guru of hematic antifreeze.

   A week earlier we'd watched an Air New Zealand DC-10 cruise low and slow past McMurdo. It was on a sightseeing tourist flight. The base helo...

  Here's a long, remarkably detailed and deeply-reported yarn that is at heart a paean to the perseverence, dedication, and sheer perspiration of physicists and other designers of a monster project in Europe. Yet it will not be such good news for the supporters of the vital enterprise on which they are...

  Here's a long, remarkably detailed and deeply-reported yarn that is at heart a paean to the perseverence, dedication, and sheer perspiration of physicists and other designers of a monster project in Europe. Yet it will not be such good news for the supporters of the vital enterprise on which they are working:

 The subject, as even those who merely casually follow energy technologies will guess from the evocative hed, is fusion energy  - specifically, magnetically confined fusion and the long-planned and enormous International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. It has far to go but is now abuilding in France with tens of billions of...

Paul Raeburn
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[Ed. note: On Feb. 28th, the Sacramento Bee's executive editor, Joyce Terhaar, said she would review the use of press releases on the paper's website. See more here.]

 

A few weeks ago, the...

[Ed. note: On Feb. 28th, the Sacramento Bee's executive editor, Joyce Terhaar, said she would review the use of press releases on the paper's website. See more here.]

 

A few weeks ago, the blogger and author Maryn McKenna-- who covers emerging infectious diseases, among other things--was sent what looked like a story from The Sacramento Bee about a new bacterial health threat.

Except that it wasn't a Sacramento Bee story. It was a press release from PR Newswire that appeared online in the pages of the Bee.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post acknowledged that it was publishing press releases in its Health & Science section. When...

In yet another attempt to describe why scientists get things wrong, Nature this month featured a story headlined, Scientific method: Statistical Errors, by Regina Nuzzo. The story highlights a practice...

In yet another attempt to describe why scientists get things wrong, Nature this month featured a story headlined, Scientific method: Statistical Errors, by Regina Nuzzo. The story highlights a practice that confuses scientists and journalists alike – calculations of statistical significance.

The material on misuse of statistics could be useful, though not new, and it makes this feature more focused than many other recent stories about the growing concern with irreproducible results. Previous stories in the New Yorker, The Economist and The New York Times are critiqued on the Tracker here, here and...

Nueva sección "Ciencias" en El Comercio (Perú)
Pere Estupinya
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(English intro to Spanish lang post) The main newspaper in Peru (El Comercio) launched a daily science-news section, in both print and online versions. It’s very good news because it might contribute to the readers perception that science is important and deserves an specific section in...

(English intro to Spanish lang post) The main newspaper in Peru (El Comercio) launched a daily science-news section, in both print and online versions. It’s very good news because it might contribute to the readers perception that science is important and deserves an specific section in the biggest newspaper in the country. The stories we’ve read are varied, well written, and well illustrated. But we think there’s still too few content talking about local researchers. By including more stories about local science, the section “Ciencias” could make an even better contribution to the development and public engagement of science and technology in Peru.

Semanas atrás el diario peruano El Comercio (el de más tirada del país), inauguró una sección específica de ...

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