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Research the Headlines

Do you have a particular news story that you’ve seen in the popular (or not so popular) media that you’d like covered by Research the Headlines? If so, please get in touch! We’re especially interested in hearing how the news media outside of the UK covers research-based stories.

Also, if you’re a researcher and your work has been featured in the media, we’d love to get your perspective on the experience (good or bad!). Give us your insight into the process, from drafting the press release with your university press office to your interaction with the media, and your thoughts on the finished articles.

Let us know what your story would be by email (, or contact us via Twitter or Facebook.

Is praising children bad for them? To praise or not to praise


A research study that examined the effects of the type of praise parents give to children on their developing personalities has received considerable attention in the media. With headlines like “too much praise can turn your kids into narcisstic jerks, study finds” and “parents who over-praise their kids are breeding narcissists“, it is no wonder parents might begin to think about the role of praise in parenting practices! But what did the research actually show? Read more…

Quackery and the media: the Stamina case


Last month saw the Stamina case come (eventually) to an end; Davide Vannoni, the inventor of the Stamina method (more on that below), reached a plea of one year and ten months for fraud. The Stamina method was advertised as a miraculous cure, based on stem cells properties, to treat different types of serious and often currently untreatable diseases. The method is not supported by scientific evidence nor clinical trials, yet it was allowed to be given to patients in Italy. Perhaps this is not too surprising, given this is not the first time that Italian authorities have failed to listen to evidence. In the 1990s, Luigi Di Bella was allowed to give patients a cocktail of molecules such as somatostatin, together with vitamins, claiming it would treat any type of cancer. Read more…

Something old, something new…ways to tackle Antimicrobial resistance


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in micro-organisms represents a clear and present danger to global human health. The World Heath Organisation (WHO) first flagged this as a considerable problem as far back as 2009. Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer,  reiterated these concerns in 2011 and 2013, suggesting that the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases was one of the top three global threats to human health along with climate change and terrorism. It has been estimated that AMR costs the EU alone over €1.5 Billion each year. The consequences of AMR may result in us returning to a pre-antibiotic era, where trivial trauma injuries become life-threatening infections again, where surgery will become almost impossible and where transplants and cancer treatment can no longer take place. Read more…

The “secrets” of how chameleons change their colour


The ability of a chameleon to change its colour to camouflage into the environment is something that truly captivates the imagination. A recent article was submitted to the journal Nature Communications that has claimed to explain some of the secrets to how these creatures can create changes in their skin colour. Significant media attention has been focused on this story, a selection of which are linked below. However, we wanted to dig a little deeper to find out what is so significant in this study. Read more…

April Fool’s Day Roundup 2015


Last year on April Fool’s Day, we attempted to round up the (sometimes tenuously) research-related spoofs from the newspapers and we wanted to do the same thing this year. Unfortunately, it has not been terribly fruitful and the day now seems to be dominated by marketing ploys masquerading as April Fool’s Day jokes which we’re going to try not to give any more publicity. However, I’ll break this rule for the rather snazzy Google maps “Pac-Man” game which can be accessed from any map screen (you might need to zoom in) by clicking the Pac-Man link in the lower left hand corner. Hopefully it won’t disappear too soon.

The first real news story we noticed (that wasn’t to do with the upcoming UK general election) was the idea that the SSE Hydro Venue in Glasgow would be made to rotate during events through the wonders of superconducting magnetic levitation (Herald Scotland). While this might be feasible to allow trains to run at hundreds of miles per hour, we’re probably a long way from turning buildings that can host tens of thousands of people into magic roundabouts.

Another story close (geographically) to members of the Young Academy of Scotland was in relation to a major civil engineering project, the new road bridge across the Firth of Forth, otherwise known as the Forth Crossing. According to the Edinburgh Evening News, a problem with the design of prefabricated parts means that there will be a 14” gap in the middle of the bridge. The solution? A minimum speed limit of 30mph to make sure vehicles clear the gap.

A story from a local news site (for one of the YAS members at least) involved the use of DNA evidence to catch dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets. While this might actually be feasible in a small community like Shetland, it might be more difficult elsewhere.

The trouble with this story (and many others) is that it’s difficult to really tell if they’re really meant as a joke when they arrive on April 1st. This is especially true when there are apparently genuine news stories about mobile phone companies replacing workers with Artificial Intelligences or messages from the stars. The BBC had an interesting article about stories that look like April Fool’s Day jokes, but aren’t. Other stories are odd, but seem like good ideas, like extending mobile internet coverage in the Australian outback by turning cows into roaming Wifi hotspots.

The normally serious journal Nature had some fun with an article postulating the real life existence of dragons and linking their re-emergence to anthropogenic climate change. By an odd coincidence, the cartoonist Ruben Bolling included a CO2 breathing dragon causing climate change in this week’s Tom the Dancing Bug comic. Did he know about the Nature paper in advance, we wonder?

Scientists at CERN reported that they had confirmed the existence of the Force through their investigation of the fundamental forces of the universe using the newly refurbished Large Hadron Collider. One researcher, Valerio Rossetti, was illustrated using the Force to reheat his coffee, but hoped to find something more useful to do with these powers in the future.

On a more realistic note, the engineering website Design News, used today’s date as an opportunity to explore the 10 Greatest Hoaxes in the History of Engineering, including the Mechanical Turk, various perpetual motion machines, and teleportation at the University of Michigan.

We finish off with what was probably one of the finest real life pranks perpetrated today: at the University of Cambridge, a sign (from Estates Advisor P.D. Avril) informed people that the door entry system had been upgraded to include voice recognition. The joker, Dr. Paul Coxon, from Materials Science and Metallurgy, posted the picture on Twitter. Apparently, this is a regular joke from Dr. Coxon and people regularly fall for it.

So, that’s it for today, if you want to let us and our readers know of anything we’ve missed, then add a comment below.

‘Why on earth was he allowed to fly?’ Why not?


Before I start this post, on behalf of Research The Headlines, I would like to convey our sympathy and condolences to the families and friends who have lost their loved ones in the recent Germanwings plane crash. Any loss of life is tragic. In a disaster like this, we are all desperate to know ‘Why?’. Unfortunately, the more anxious we are to find out the truth, the more likely we are to become the victims of irresponsibly written newspaper headlines, the sole aim of which is to spark sensation rather than to provide the much needed accurate information.

Read more…

I don’t believe the terrible stats on sexual violence, so they can’t be true?


A recent Telegraph article, by Neil Lyndon, entitled ‘Why do we believe such terrible things about men that can’t be true?’ reveals breathtaking ignorance from a journalist known for his unsavoury views towards women and feminism. What has got Lyndon so het up, incredulous and spitting venom at women and feminists? The ‘small matter’ of the global incidence of sexual violence against women. Specifically, he is incredulous at a United Nations (UN) report published recently, which highlighted that one in three women experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. The report said : ‘at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her lifetime.’  To emphasise his disbelief, Lyndon turned to his own mother and asked her if she or her 5 sisters have ever experienced anything like this. “Of course not”, came the reply. Lyndon then uses the anecdote to make claims about report findings, as if personal anecdotes provide the best source of information on which to base our beliefs and better still global policy on serious matters.  Why not disband the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN and instead use personal views to develop policy? Read more…

“Drinking a cup of tea can help prevent diabetes”


Hardly a week goes by without some sensationalist headlines that tell us that certain drinks or foods are good or bad for us. We have been told that drinking coffee is good for our liver, drinking tea or eating blueberries have anti-diabetic properties, drinking cocoa fends of Alzheimer’s whilst exercise makes us age faster. I do find these quite fascinating as quite often we feel secretly guilty about our little pleasures (5 cups of tea a day for example) or not doing enough exercise. Reading headlines like these do tend to make us feel quite good about our lifestyle choices; however, once these headlines do grab our interest, it would be quite nice to check out the original article(s) on which the claims were made. Read more…

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai 2015 eruption


Stories about volcanoes are always a crowd pleaser, no more so than the growth of a new volcanic island, something that is not witnessed every day, but is relatively common. Recently, many of the UK media outlets have been running stories about the growth of the new island volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, in the Pacific, such as The Mail and the BBC. However, the coverage is rarely based on science, and presents mainly photos, eye witness reports and information on diameters of the new edifice. This is valuable information for scientists, but currently, no in-depth scientific reports on the eruption are publically available. Read more…


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