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Circumcision and the development of autism and ADHD


A study of a large sample of boys that reported an association between circumcision during childhood and the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has not surprisingly received attention in the media and on social networking sites and blogs. The author, Professor Morten Frisch, has speculated about links between painful injuries and stress responses which has no doubt added to the controversy. Read more…

Talking Headlines: Professor Dorothy Bishop on Science in the Media


Welcome to a new series of posts, Talking Headlines, where we interview world-leading researchers and journalists about their experiences and views on how the media portrays research. This week, Silvia Paracchini interviews Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology and Wellcome Principal Research Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Oxford. Her main research focuses on understanding why some children have language problems despite normal development in other cognitive areas. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society. In addition, she writes a popular blog on a range of academic-related topics, including many posts on journalism/science communications.

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Did Scientists Just Discover Life In Space? Probably Not


Is Earth the only object in the Universe that can boast biological organisms? This question burns in the minds of astrobiologists, scientists from many disciplines (astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, biology and many more) who investigate how life appeared on Earth, and whether other worlds possess the necessary conditions for life.

When a newspaper like the Daily Express publishes headlines such as “GHOST PARTICLE: The picture proof which shows aliens ARE out there“, you might be forgiven for getting excited, now that we know we are not alone in the Universe. But should we get excited? How does this particle prove the existence of extraterrestrial life? Read more…

See what you remember


Difficulties remembering? Just close your eyes and it will all come flooding back. This is not actually a particularly new finding, with several studies showing that eye closure can improve witness recall in the context of forensic psychology.

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More Adventures With Weather Forecasting


It’s winter, so that means grim and terrifying headlines about severe weather systems arriving in the UK. You might remember me writing about this last year, when the Daily Express reported in November 2013 that the winter of 2013/14 would be “the worst in 100 years“. Predictions of Arctic blizzards were confronted with the reality of a warm, wet, stormy winter, with terrible flooding. Read more…

What makes a great teacher?


Guest Article by Neil McLennan

A recent article I was privy to, having been circulated around the RSE Education Committee, provides an interesting headline and an interesting challenge for researchers. So far, Research the Headlines has been about putting journalists on the right track when reporting on research released (as well as offering guidance to consumers of news). Furthermore, it has been about sending out research to journalists that has gone ‘under the radar’ (like this post here) and deserves further public exposure. However, on this occasion I would like to flag something up that has appeared in the press to researchers. Read more…

Resolving to Sleep


We’re now 9 days into 2015 and people are already starting to break their New Year’s resolutions. However, according to a recent article in the Daily Mail, the only resolution you need to stick to is getting more sleep and the rest should be easy to keep. But is it really that simple?

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Electrical brain stimulation for cognitive enhancement – maybe too soon for the DIY kit


If someone suggested you could boost your brainpower with a small burst of electrical stimulation from electrodes attached to your head, would you give it a try? Apparently, some people have been doing exactly that, either buying ready-made kits designed for the purpose or using instructions online to build their own DIY versions.

New research has shown that while such transcranial electrical stimulation may indeed provide a benefit to some, it appears to depend on specific characteristics of the individual. The question raised by the study is then: “cognitive enhancement or cognitive cost”?

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Looking Back On Research The Headlines in 2014


Another year has gone by at Research the Headlines, and we’re going from strength to strength.  The Young Academy of Scotland took on a new cohort of members, and we’re delighted to have new contributors writing about topics like Islamic State, Ebola, Muslim integration in Britain, sex and language, milk, and whether C-sections increase the risk of autism (answer: no). Read more…

Fairy lights put too much pressure on National Grid


Here we go again…

Here’s one for all you festive Scrooges out there. The National Grid is teetering on the brink of collapse, and your fairy lights could tip it over the edge:

“A TEAM of experts whose jobs are based on creating winter wonderlands are appealing for [..] residents to switch to low-energy fairy lights this Christmas. The Christmas Decorators… [are] urging the public to use energy efficiently this Christmas to ease pressure on the National Grid.” (Southern Daily Echo, 24th Nov, and others since).

The headlines are right to the extent we are experiencing some big structural changes to electricity generation in the UK, with many of the ‘super stations’ of the 1960s and 1970s being closed under the European Union’s Large Combustion Plant Directive. But are your fairy lights really the difference between a festive winter wonderland and the apocalypse? Probably not. Read more…


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