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  The press will, despite some new data on why people so warp scientific conclusions to fit their preferences, continue to focus on how such preconceptions and knee-jerk reactions sort out according to political party affiliation. After all, political parties are winners and losers according to how much their...

  The press will, despite some new data on why people so warp scientific conclusions to fit their preferences, continue to focus on how such preconceptions and knee-jerk reactions sort out according to political party affiliation. After all, political parties are winners and losers according to how much their platforms and rhetorical gymnastics sway people to vote for them. Political parties really matter. Their differences drive much of the news cycle.

   Still, reporters should take a look at a study just out that seeks to explain, with polling data from Americans going back many years, what sort of personal characteristics lead some people, say, to vociferously oppose human embryonic stem cell research and its conclusions as anchors for public policy, that lead others to embrace it, and that leave others not caring or pondering.   And it's not so much political party as a set of other personal qualities which, while somewhat co-variant with...

The Discovery Channel has given new meaning to the screenwriters' desperate maneuver known as jumping the shark--with an apparently faked photo of an actual extinct shark.

The evidence the image was faked comes from the...

The Discovery Channel has given new meaning to the screenwriters' desperate maneuver known as jumping the shark--with an apparently faked photo of an actual extinct shark.

The evidence the image was faked comes from the columnist George Monbiot at theguardian, who might have done something more important with today's column but couldn't have done anything more entertaining. "Did Discovery Channel fake the image in its giant shark documentary?" he asks.

"Come clean or prove me wrong," he writes.

The Discovery documentary includes this image, which Monbiot displays in his column:

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  The tracker over the years has taken note of innovative, or desperate, measures that science reporters and their close kin in the environmental and medical journalism world have taken to, uh, get paid to do what they do. The collapse of old time print daily media has spawned great and in many ways exciting...

  The tracker over the years has taken note of innovative, or desperate, measures that science reporters and their close kin in the environmental and medical journalism world have taken to, uh, get paid to do what they do. The collapse of old time print daily media has spawned great and in many ways exciting ferment in journalism.  But the regular paychecks are rare these days. One example of new thinking about bottom lines has come from the environmental journalist Stephen Leahy, who not only writes for several scrappy (ie not lavish spending) outlets but put on his website a suggestion that readers send him viaPayPal a bit of cash, offer him housing when he's on the road, etc. The site, by the way, is a little old, but Leahy is soldiering on, often for the Inter Press Service where this list of his stories is. 

  ...

Headline writing is an art, as I was reminded the other day by this superb example: "Shroud of Turin Formed by an Earthquake? Scientists...

Headline writing is an art, as I was reminded the other day by this superb example: "Shroud of Turin Formed by an Earthquake? Scientists Say Face of Jesus Image Caused By Neutron Emissions."

Admittedly, it doesn't make much sense. Still, you have to admire the headline writers at The Huffington Post who wrote this.

I'm not the only one who succumbed and clicked. Joel Achenbach, a science writer and blogger at The Washington Post, was also sucked "down the rabbit hole of pseudoscience and bunk" when he saw this hed.

He used the occasion to reflect on the state of science journalism, which, like the shroud...

The National Science Foundation has just come out with its latest periodic survey on the public understanding of science, and yet again, shown that most people don’t have a clue. An embarrassingly large fraction discounts evolution...

The National Science Foundation has just come out with its latest periodic survey on the public understanding of science, and yet again, shown that most people don’t have a clue. An embarrassingly large fraction discounts evolution. Some respondents also inevitably answered that the sun revolves around the earth rather than the other way around, though this is an odd question considering that motion is relative. A much better approach would be to ask which body is at the center of the solar system. Such a question would more accurately measure whether people really do prefer Ptolemy to Copernicus.

But the big news this year was that more people than ever said they thought astrology was “very scientific” or “somewhat scientific”. It was up to more than half, from about a third in previous surveys.  

Several people covered the findings. Chris Mooney...

You might think that two sweets like sugar and corn syrup would be get along well. They do the same job, more or less, and people like them.

Alas, it isn't so. Sometimes the more two parties are alike, the more they fight. And that's sadly the case here.

Last week, Eric Lipton...

You might think that two sweets like sugar and corn syrup would be get along well. They do the same job, more or less, and people like them.

Alas, it isn't so. Sometimes the more two parties are alike, the more they fight. And that's sadly the case here.

Last week, Eric Lipton wrote an illuminating story on the front page of the business section of The New York Times in which he mined documents uncovered in a federal lawsuit between the corn refinery and sugar industries. The story reports that both parties resorted to covert operations, misrepresentation of research on health risks, and enlisted academics and policy groups as allies.

The battle began with research suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup might be less healthy than sugar, Lipton reports--which the corn industry vigorously denied. The sugar and corn...

The Washington Post announced Tuesday that it will stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section following the disclosure of the practice by the Knight Science...

The Washington Post announced Tuesday that it will stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section following the disclosure of the practice by the Knight Science Journalism Tracker last Friday.

I received the following email today from Kristine C. Coratti, the Post's spokesperson:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your patience!

Your post raised good questions and we are discontinuing the feature.

Thank you again,
Kris

In the post last week, I asked, "What is the Washington Post doing reprinting press releases? The Post's website groups the Health & Science Section under national news. Is the Post so strapped that it can't report its own national news, but...

Faye Flam
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Last week, researchers announced that in a tiny study, they treated a handful of SIV-infected monkeys with cannabis. The researchers reported in a journal called AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses that upon examining the monkeys...

Last week, researchers announced that in a tiny study, they treated a handful of SIV-infected monkeys with cannabis. The researchers reported in a journal called AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses that upon examining the monkeys’ intestines, they observed less inflammation and a lower viral load than they saw in control monkeys.

Competent medical reporters know better than to raise hopes regarding any disease following a single, tiny trial in animals, or even for that matter a more substantial trial in animals. In this case we don’t even know if the treatment would have allowed the monkeys to live longer or stay healthier.

And yet, a couple of news outlets ran with headlines declaring that pot fights AIDS, and suggested that the lack of enthusiasm in the medical community was all due to the illicit nature of the drug – rather than caution because it was just a small...

It was almost inevitable that a climate discussion would come up last Thursday as I waited at the Philadelphia International Airport for my second cancelled flight of the day. Thousands of people were stranded by unusual snow and ice. I struck up a conversation with a couple of bankers – frequent flyers with...

It was almost inevitable that a climate discussion would come up last Thursday as I waited at the Philadelphia International Airport for my second cancelled flight of the day. Thousands of people were stranded by unusual snow and ice. I struck up a conversation with a couple of bankers – frequent flyers with outsized carbon footprints. Amid the grousing, one of them interjected a comment more or less like, “So much for global warming, ha ha.” And then the other one chimed in, with a tone of mockery, recalling how liberals keep trying to explain to him that the cold really is a sign of global warming.

Moods were tense, and Philadelphia’s brotherly love was wearing thin. It was no time to get into a squabble, but as a responsible citizen I did at least point out that it’s rather balmy in Alaska and the west is parched.

Next time, I’ll start with a question. How big is the U.S. as a portion of the globe? I got that idea from ...

[Editor's note: On Feb. 18, four days after this post was written, the Washington Post said it would stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section.]

Did you see...

[Editor's note: On Feb. 18, four days after this post was written, the Washington Post said it would stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section.]

Did you see the story in last Tuesday's Health & Science section of The Washington Post about how women find Tour de France leaders more attractive than the riders bringing up the rear? The study shows "that we can assess a man's endurance performance by looking at his face." And you can turn that around: "Attractive riders are,...

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...
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