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Here is one way to say a huge government research instrument has a pathetic history: "Over the past few years, NIF has been getting a fat "F"'. So blogged NPR's Geoff Brumfiel at the outlet's...

Here is one way to say a huge government research instrument has a pathetic history: "Over the past few years, NIF has been getting a fat "F"'. So blogged NPR's Geoff Brumfiel at the outlet's The Two-Way blog yesterday afternoon (Thur Feb 12).

   Clean and on point. The news is getting tremendous pickup. A roundup of many examples of stories is below. They arise  from a report in Nature - where Brumfiel used to work and covered just such news as this - dated today and promoted Monday by a press teleconference. Physical Review Letters last week had a paper on it, too. Scientists and engineers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory say the facility's gigantic National Ignition Facility has still not ignited any gold-plated pellets of...

How often are researchers forced to abandon expensive clinical trials in cancer research?

More often than you might think. A study presented earlier this month at the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium found that one-fifth of studies of cancer clinical trials from 2005-2011 were ended prematurely for reasons...

How often are researchers forced to abandon expensive clinical trials in cancer research?

More often than you might think. A study presented earlier this month at the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium found that one-fifth of studies of cancer clinical trials from 2005-2011 were ended prematurely for reasons that had nothing to do with the effectiveness of the treatments or the health of the subjects.

That's an astonishing figure. Imagine if General Motors abandoned one-fifth of its cars before completing them, and instead tossed them on some scrap heap. Or imagine if hospitals dismissed one-fifth of their patients before completing their treatment. The cancer problem is even worse, because it affects not only the subjects thrown out, but untold numbers of others who might have benefitted from what would have been learned with completion of the trial.

"This problem has huge implications," said one of the study's authors, Kristian Stensland of the...

Faye Flam
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In another one of those contrarian pieces that crop up from time to time questioning the benefits of sexual equality, psychotherapist and author Lori Gottlieb asked: Does a More Equal Marriage...

In another one of those contrarian pieces that crop up from time to time questioning the benefits of sexual equality, psychotherapist and author Lori Gottlieb asked: Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? This lengthy New York Times Magazine piece was, surprisingly, a science story in the sense that the premise was built on a scientific study. But as a science story it was problematic.  

The study in question, Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage, appeared in a journal called The American Sociological Review. The result, we’re told, is that among some sample of couples, those in which the man did all of the cooking, laundry, or vacuuming had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those in which the man did more traditionally masculine...

  Just as yesterday's post on some of the newsier items at Scientific American's blog network was nearing completion, including a congratulations to its new boss Curtis Brainard, he replied to my...

  Just as yesterday's post on some of the newsier items at Scientific American's blog network was nearing completion, including a congratulations to its new boss Curtis Brainard, he replied to my query regarding what's up with his move and how's the site doing?

   First off, he is thrilled, is still getting his bearings, and has been in the New York Sci Am office for only a week writing for the site on the fly while getting himself moved from Boston. It is a return trip to NY for him, after having moved to Boston just a year and a half ago. He came to wide prominence in the science writing world writing for the Columbia Journalism Review. He leaves behind there The Observatory site for commentary and news about the science beat. The Observatory now is in the able hands of CJR's...

   'Happened across a satisfying news surprise this week. It led to several other surprises for me. Thus begins a narrative of discovery that began during 0ne of my near-random walkabout searches for interesting science journalism-related fodder for the tracker. First reward came with this nicely done...

   'Happened across a satisfying news surprise this week. It led to several other surprises for me. Thus begins a narrative of discovery that began during 0ne of my near-random walkabout searches for interesting science journalism-related fodder for the tracker. First reward came with this nicely done piece of conventional, meaning professionally thorough, and vivid reporting:

  • Scientific American Guest Blog - Sam Khosravifard: Persian Leopards: Large Cats with a Small Chance for Survival;  Solid news lede, "In the past 40 days along, seven rare Persian leopards have been killed or injured by poachers, food poisoning, and cars, according to Iranian media reports" followed by recent context - they are among the Sochi Olympics's mascots complete with a Putin photo-op  (see...

[Ed. note: Gary Schwitzer is the publisher, chief cook, and bottle washer at HealthNewsReview.org, which evaluates health news reporting, marketing, and public relations according to how accurately they inform the public. This post was submitted as a comment to my post yesterday, "...

[Ed. note: Gary Schwitzer is the publisher, chief cook, and bottle washer at HealthNewsReview.org, which evaluates health news reporting, marketing, and public relations according to how accurately they inform the public. This post was submitted as a comment to my post yesterday, "Why medical writers are smarter than business reporters," which I drew from Schwitzer's reporting. I thought this comment was important enough to pull out as a separate post, especially because of the rich links that Schwitzer provides.--Paul Raeburn.]

I've been writing about the apparent different standard for business health stories for years; this Pfizer episode is just the latest in a litany of less than optimal business health stories. Other examples:

  • ...

A good way to establish the credibility of an online news startup is to hire somebody with a solid journalism reputation--somebody like Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The New York Times who now holds the prestigious post of Op-Ed columnist. But Keller, perched in his...

A good way to establish the credibility of an online news startup is to hire somebody with a solid journalism reputation--somebody like Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The New York Times who now holds the prestigious post of Op-Ed columnist. But Keller, perched in his chair in the Times tower, would never do it, right?

Wrong. Keller has just signed on as the first editor-in-chief at the Marshall Project, a news startup devoted to coverage of the U.S. criminal justice system.

The Marshall Project, which plans to launch in the middle of this year, was established by Neil Barsky, a former reporter for the New York Daily News and The Wall Street Journal and co-founder of the hedge fund Midtown Capital, according to his Marshall Project bio.

The hiring of Keller gives the site instant visibility and...

[Thanks to Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.org for alerting me to this. See his post here. Also, see his guest post ...

[Thanks to Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.org for alerting me to this. See his post here. Also, see his guest post responding to this one.]

 

Did you hear the one about Pfizer's new drug for advanced breast cancer?

It goes something like this: A new Pfizer drug combined with an existing cancer drug "achieved its primary endpoint by demonstrating a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in progression-free survival" in certain cases of advanced or metastatic breast cancer. "We are delighted with the final data, which suggest the potential for palbociclib to transform the standard of care for post-menopausal women with ER+ and HER2- advanced breast cancer," a Pfizer vice president said in a company...

Is sugar toxic? To lose weight, do we reduce the carbs in our diet, or the fat? Why do many people find it easy to lose weight, but nearly impossible to keep it off?

These are the some of the nutrition-related questions that the journalist Gary Taubes has addressed more assiduously than...

Is sugar toxic? To lose weight, do we reduce the carbs in our diet, or the fat? Why do many people find it easy to lose weight, but nearly impossible to keep it off?

These are the some of the nutrition-related questions that the journalist Gary Taubes has addressed more assiduously than probably any other science reporter in the country in recent years. On Sunday, in a piece in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times, he gives us the answers to these and similar questions. But not the answers we might like.

The answer to many of these questions, Taubes writes, is: We don't know. That's despite what he says are more than 600,000 articles on obesity or diabetes (a frequent consequence of obesity). Taubes:

Because...

   A long piece - on a long-running war between a feisty Harvard-educated (undergrad), UC Berkeley PhD and now-tenured biology professor with an interest in endocrinology and a huge corporation with huge profits at stake - has gotten a tremendous reaction over the last day or two:

  • ...

   A long piece - on a long-running war between a feisty Harvard-educated (undergrad), UC Berkeley PhD and now-tenured biology professor with an interest in endocrinology and a huge corporation with huge profits at stake - has gotten a tremendous reaction over the last day or two:

   It is an engrossing yet puzzling piece. Its prime character, Tyrone Hayes, especially around here (The SF Bay Area), has been a science story for at least ten years. Many readers of the tracker likely have at least an inkling why. He has become a deep thorn in the side of Syngenta, a Swiss-based herbicide and pesticide manufacturer that is the descendant,  by...

The front page of The New York Times on Monday carried a story by Gina Kolata that told a compelling tale of a woman with a deadly genetic disease...

The front page of The New York Times on Monday carried a story by Gina Kolata that told a compelling tale of a woman with a deadly genetic disease who was able to have children knowing they did not carry the lethal gene. The children were conceived through in-vitro fertilization and tested for the gene before unaffected embryos were implanted.

This is not a new development. The idea of testing embryos for genetic diseases before implantation has been around for more than 20 years. Yet the Times put it on the front page.

The only explanation I can think of is that Kolata's evocative writing seduced her editors into thinking it was a new story. She followed a heartwarming lead anecdote with the Big Questions. The procedure, she...

Can she cure what ails science?
Faye Flam
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A recent piece from The New York Times “Grey Matter” column in the Sunday Review continues what seems to be a trend toward suggesting science doesn’t work or is somehow malfunctioning.

The...

A recent piece from The New York Times “Grey Matter” column in the Sunday Review continues what seems to be a trend toward suggesting science doesn’t work or is somehow malfunctioning.

The author of this latest piece is political scientist Michael Suk-Young Chwe, and the headline, Scientific Pride and Prejudice.

Here’s the lede:

Science is in crisis, just when we need it most.

It’s a good hook, but is it true?

To back up this alarming claim, we get this link to a Nature paper. The paper says that in cancer drug development, too many researchers are jumping ahead into clinical studies before the pre-...

  Here is a headline that is a big fat fib:

  Here is a headline that is a big fat fib:

  •  InsideClimate News - John H. Cushman Jr.: How to Deconstruct the Difficult Math of Keystone XL's Carbon Footprint ;    This is misleading because it implies it will lead to the answer. However, not to worry, that's ok. It is a story about the math itself, not the automatically fuzzy answer that one gets from that math. And the story may be as good as it is going to get in terms of explaining a pipeline's footprint - which is its point. 

  This yarn is for anybody deeply interested in the geochemical stakes and consequences of a decision pro or con at the White House on whether to finish a near-straight shot hose of heavy crude oil from the Athabasca tar sands of Alberta right into the vast complex of refineries along the Gulf Coast...

For more than 20 years, we have been hearing charges and counter-charges concerning alleged sexual abuse by Woody Allen of Dylan Farrow, a daughter he adopted with Mia Farrow. Dylan, now 28, is an artist and writer living in Florida under a different name.

The charges were never resolved. But now Allen has...

For more than 20 years, we have been hearing charges and counter-charges concerning alleged sexual abuse by Woody Allen of Dylan Farrow, a daughter he adopted with Mia Farrow. Dylan, now 28, is an artist and writer living in Florida under a different name.

The charges were never resolved. But now Allen has been effectively accused of child abuse again in the pages of The New York Times, in a harsh and deeply misguided column by Nicholas Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner known for his support of human rights and children in such dangerous places as Chad and Darfur.

On Feb. 1, with no more legal evidence than what was available 20 years ago, Kristof wrote in his column, "When evidence is ambiguous, do we really need to leap to our feet and lionize an alleged molester?" The column was prompted...

Guest post by Maia Szalavitz: What Journalists Can Do to Fight Opioid Addiction
Paul Raeburn
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[Ed. note: Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com who regularly writes about drug addiction. She is also the co-author, with Bruce Perry, MD, PhD, of "Born for Love:  Why Empathy is Essential-- And Endangered" and the author of "Help At Any Cost:  How the Troubled-Teen Industry...

[Ed. note: Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com who regularly writes about drug addiction. She is also the co-author, with Bruce Perry, MD, PhD, of "Born for Love:  Why Empathy is Essential-- And Endangered" and the author of "Help At Any Cost:  How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids."]

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose death has hit nearly everyone affected by addiction hard, including this former heroin addict. But while I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how good much of the coverage has been, unfortunately, journalism still has a long way to go before it can truly serve the public interest by providing accurate, fair and useful coverage of addiction and drugs.

First, the good stuff.  The New Republic,...

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