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Doctors and medical groups who say the public can't understand the newly released Medicare data because it's "out of context" should look at the latest edition of On Science...

Doctors and medical groups who say the public can't understand the newly released Medicare data because it's "out of context" should look at the latest edition of On Science Blogs by Tabitha M. Powledge.

There they will find the context. Plenty of reporters and news organizations are doing a good job of providing the context that Americans need to understand the data.

Here's a case in point, recounted by Powledge:

A Business Day post by Denise Grady and Sheri Fink shows how the data can mislead. One example: a family medicine physician at the University of Michigan Health Services got $7.58 million in 2012 for more than 207,000 patients. Unbelievable, right?

Except, as it turns out, the doc directs a Medicare project...

Governments around the world have spent $9 billion stockpiling a flu drug that's probably no better than aspirin and possibly harmful.

So writes Julia Belluz at Maclean's magazine...

Governments around the world have spent $9 billion stockpiling a flu drug that's probably no better than aspirin and possibly harmful.

So writes Julia Belluz at Maclean's magazine in Canada. The story was prompted by a study and a new release from the Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit research group that produces broad reviews of the evidence for and against such things as drugs, medical procedures, and healthcare policies.

In a new review, Cochrane reports that "Tamiflu (the antiviral drug oseltamivir) shortens symptoms of influenza by half a day, but there is no good evidence to support claims that it reduces admissions to hospital or complications of influenza." It reports that the...

The news website of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences--known around the campus as SHASS--asked me to say something briefly about the Tracker and its mission. Here is how I answered SHASS's...

The news website of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences--known around the campus as SHASS--asked me to say something briefly about the Tracker and its mission. Here is how I answered SHASS's "3 Questions" for the Tracker.

This also gave me an occasion to bring up--yet again!--the story of the "immortal" jellyfish.

Enjoy.

-Paul Raeburn

Doctors should not accept money to promote drug companies that fund their research.

Hard to argue with.

There's a legitimate argument for paying researchers to speak, and it doesn't mean they become pharma salespeople.

Also hard to argue with.

The first of these statements comes...

Doctors should not accept money to promote drug companies that fund their research.

Hard to argue with.

There's a legitimate argument for paying researchers to speak, and it doesn't mean they become pharma salespeople.

Also hard to argue with.

The first of these statements comes from Charles Ornstein of ProPublica, one of the authors of "Double Dip: Doctors Paid to Advise, Promote Drug Companies That Fund Their Research," co-published by ProPublica and The Boston Globe. The story argues that Yoav Golan, an infectious-disease specialist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, is wrong to accept "tens...

Medicare, the government-run health program for older Americans, paid one doctor $20.8 million in 2012.

Of the 825,000 doctors in Medicare's claims database, 344 took in at least $3 million each, for a total of $1.5 billion.

This data has been kept private since 1979--35 years ago--by a court...

Medicare, the government-run health program for older Americans, paid one doctor $20.8 million in 2012.

Of the 825,000 doctors in Medicare's claims database, 344 took in at least $3 million each, for a total of $1.5 billion.

This data has been kept private since 1979--35 years ago--by a court injunction sought by the American Medical Association that barred release of any details of these expenditures of public money. The injunction was vacated by a federal judge last year.

This data from the Medicare claims database was released today by the federal government, which called this a "historic release of data."

The word I'd use is not historic, but outrageous. The first two facts above come from an Associated Press  story by Ricardo Alonso-...

When we think about science and religion, we often see the two in conflict. Science says the world and its creatures arose over billions of years by way of natural processes; and some religions--not all--argue that the world was made in seven days by a being whom we should therefore revere.

You can see this...

When we think about science and religion, we often see the two in conflict. Science says the world and its creatures arose over billions of years by way of natural processes; and some religions--not all--argue that the world was made in seven days by a being whom we should therefore revere.

You can see this dichotomy in a piece by the social critic Barbara Ehrenreich in in the most recent Sunday Review in The New York Times. "My atheism is hard core...a stance I perpetuated by opting, initially, for a career in science," she begins. Science is not an expression of atheism, just as it is not an expression of religion. Even smart people like Ehrenreich can become confused about that.

One person who didn't become confused about science and spirituality--and who showed there is a place for them to coexist--was...

On Saturday, Elisabeth Rosenthal at The New York Times began a story with a description of a woman with diabetes who wears a small digital pump at her...

On Saturday, Elisabeth Rosenthal at The New York Times began a story with a description of a woman with diabetes who wears a small digital pump at her waist that delivers insulin to her bloodstream. The insulin keeps her alive; this isn't a high-priced option for a wealthy patient. It's necessary care.

“It looks like a beeper,” the woman told Rosenthal. “It’s made of plastic and runs on triple-A batteries, but it’s the most expensive thing I own, aside from my house.” A new model, Rosenthal reported, can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And the pump and related supplies will cost the woman $5,000 this year, even with good health insurance. That includes insulin that once "cost a few dollars" and "now often sells for more than $200 a vial, meaning some...

Philip J. Hilts, the director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT and a former science reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, has announced that...

Philip J. Hilts, the director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT and a former science reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, has announced that he will retire at the end of June.

Hilts, who took over the program in 2008, expanded its international reach and added training in video and audio storytelling. And under his leadership, the number of applicants for the year-long Knight Science Journalism fellowships  for science reporters grew from about 80 per year to about 150 per year.

"The Knight Program has been a tremendous asset to MIT, and a powerful resource for our understanding of the relationship between science and technology and the public," said Deborah Fitzgerald, the Kenan Sahin Dean at the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. "I am...

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs reviews the week's climate coverage (including some of our remarks here).

And she also notes an event that...

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs reviews the week's climate coverage (including some of our remarks here).

And she also notes an event that I somehow missed: Jane Goodall's 80th birthday. I met Goodall once, at a dinner in New York, and she is not only smart, charming, and engaging, but she has some kind of aura about her. I know, I know: talk of "auras" makes me sound like some kind of new-age...well, makes me sound new-age. Instead of "aura," let's say charisma. Whatever it is, it makes you want to speak softly when you're around her, and listen carefully to everything she says.

She was probably 70 when I met her. I thought she was cool.

Powledge also collects comments on the discovery of the bones of Richard III, which gives me a rare opportunity to quote some...

There are only two things you need to know about medicines and ADHD:

Some kids get medicine when they shouldn't. And some kids don't get medicine when they should.

The first of those is reported over and over and over again. The second is almost never mentioned.

The New York...

There are only two things you need to know about medicines and ADHD:

Some kids get medicine when they shouldn't. And some kids don't get medicine when they should.

The first of those is reported over and over and over again. The second is almost never mentioned.

The New York Times has run a series of stories, mostly on the front page, about the overuse of ADHD medications. You will rarely find it mention--even in passing--the tragedy of children with ADHD who are not getting treatment that would help them.

If it sounds as though I'm taking sides, it's only to fight back against the widespread prejudice among journalists that the problem with drugs and ADHD is solely a problem of overmedication. I don't know how to diagnose ADHD, I don't know what medicines to use to treat it, and I'm not advocating more use of medication...

[4/11/14: Updates with addition of Cyranoski's story on Feb. 17th, ahead of the others mentioned here.]

Everybody had the story this week: Haruko Obokata, who claimed to create stem cells by stressing embryonic-like cells, has been accused of scientific misconduct.

"The judgement is...

[4/11/14: Updates with addition of Cyranoski's story on Feb. 17th, ahead of the others mentioned here.]

Everybody had the story this week: Haruko Obokata, who claimed to create stem cells by stressing embryonic-like cells, has been accused of scientific misconduct.

"The judgement is the latest twist — but not the final word — in the bizarre story of stimulus-triggered activation of pluripotency (STAP), a method that researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, still say is able to turn ordinary mature mouse cells into cells that share embryonic stem cells' capacity to turn into all of the body’s cells," wrote David Cyranoski at Nature, just one of many stories that reported the disturbing development. This was a particularly interesting one, however, because...

Until today, the powerful language in the latest climate-change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change generated scant coverage, and little or no demand from reporters for government reactions.

Coverage of any kind was meager yesterday, as I pointed out in...

Until today, the powerful language in the latest climate-change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change generated scant coverage, and little or no demand from reporters for government reactions.

Coverage of any kind was meager yesterday, as I pointed out in my previous post. Today, some others caught up, running stories from The Associated Press or writing off of the IPCC report and press release. But aside from the handful of reporters who went to Yokohama for the release of the report, nobody was doing much original reporting.

I found one example of the kind of story I was looking for when I opened The New York Times today. There Coral Davenport wrote a news analysis reporting that the new data puts...

[Update 4/2: A couple of justifiably aggrieved friends at The Washington Post said the paper did more than run the AP.  Staff reporter Steven Mufson...

[Update 4/2: A couple of justifiably aggrieved friends at The Washington Post said the paper did more than run the AP.  Staff reporter Steven Mufson wrote a piece off of the report and the press release, with reaction from several scientists.]

On March 25, the Tracker's Charlie Petit predicted that few members of the Western press would fly to Yokohama, Japan for the release of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He was right. The problem, he explained, was that we've heard it all before and we'll be hearing it again and again.

It's the paradox of climate-...

I'm apparently not the only one to take a shot at Nate Silver's new news site. He's taking hits from all over.

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs...

I'm apparently not the only one to take a shot at Nate Silver's new news site. He's taking hits from all over.

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs wraps up much of the coverage--all of it negative, as far as I can tell. The principal line of attack is not a subtle one: Silver's new data journalism site lacks, uh, how should I put this...

Data.

Powledge quotes various commentators who have said that, and she also raises questions about some of the people Silver has chosen to cover science. Roger Pielke, Jr. and Emily Oster are idiosyncratic choices, to say the least.

Powledge thinks Silver will get better, because it always takes time for startups to find their footing.

...

E-cigarettes have largely escaped coverage, especially coverage by science and health reporters.

And when they do get covered, the most important thing about them is rarely explored in depth--whether they help smokers quit, or whether they encourage non-smokers to start.

Last December, Joe...

E-cigarettes have largely escaped coverage, especially coverage by science and health reporters.

And when they do get covered, the most important thing about them is rarely explored in depth--whether they help smokers quit, or whether they encourage non-smokers to start.

Last December, Joe Nocera, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, wrote a piece extolling e-cigarettes. He describes them as "an innovative device that can help people wean themselves" from smoking. "It has the same look and feel as the lethal product...but the ingredients that kill...

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