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Explore our archive this summer

Research the Headlines

While we take a brief summer break at Research the Headlines, remember there’s a large archive of posts for you to explore. Using the category list on the right of our homepage, you can select articles on the subjects that interest you…from Astronomy to Robotics! Or why not dip into our Talking Headlines series in which we talk to researchers and journalists about their experiences of good and bad media reporting of research findings?

Or maybe you’d like to get some top tips for how you might better evaluate the latest headlines yourself. Fear not, our How to “Research the Headlines” series gives ten simple things for you to consider to help you get closer to the research behind the headlines.

We’re about halfway through our little break, so regular service will resume next month.

Probiotics and autism

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Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are frequently exposed to ‘potential cures’ for their child’s disorder in the media. In the last week, several media outlets have focused on probiotics suggesting it can ‘reverse’  or ‘cure’ autism symptoms. Autism is a life-long developmental disability, characterised by persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests evident from early childhood. The symptoms significantly limit and impair everyday functioning, so it is no wonder that parents will be alerted to potential evidence that suggests a possible cure or reversal of symptoms.  What evidence does this recent study provide though, and how did the media handle coverage of the study findings? Read more…

“Fountain of youth” drug won’t be available any time soon

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Last week, the Daily Mail heralded a major breakthrough in reversing the ageing process: “‘Fountain of youth’ pill could be available in just two years: Blend of 30 vitamins and minerals may reverse ageing of the brain”. That is quite the headline. It is explicit in its assertion: we are two years away from having access to a pill that will combat the ageing process. Let’s take a closer look then! Read more…

Factors linked to adolescent suicide

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This article was co-authored by Sinead Rhodes and guest writer Susan Rasmussen

The month of May is exam time for pupils and students up and down the country, so it is no surprise that there will be media coverage of research that examines issues like exam stress around this time. In the last week we have seen quite extensive media coverage suggesting a link between exam stress and suicide in teenagers. What was the research about, and how did the media handle this very sensitive issue? Read more…

Weekly curry unlikely to delay dementia

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While we’re all familiar with the old “apple a day” adage, the Daily Mail recently asked us to consider “Could a curry a week PREVENT dementia?”. While it’s not the first time that spicy food has been promoted as having a possible role in protecting our thinking skills as we age, the headlines and the actual research were not entirely in agreement. The Telegraph offered a slightly more measured headline “Eating curry may help fight off dementia, new study suggests” adding those caveats of “may” and “study suggests” to keep us guessing, while The Spectator left no room for doubt, declaring “Sorry, a weekly curry won’t prevent dementia”. Given that these headlines were all drawn from the same research study, it wouldn’t be surprising if people were left unsure what to think (and eat). Read more…

Famous earthquakes of the future: Rupturing of the San Andreas Fault

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The largest and most devastating earthquakes occur at subduction zones, where one tectonic plate is forced to descend into the mantle beneath an adjacent plate in order to accommodate convergence between them. If we inspect a list of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, it is the sudden release of accumulated strain energy from locked subduction zones which produced the top nine. This includes the magnitude 9.5 Chilean earthquake of 1960 (the largest earthquake ever recorded) and the recent magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake of 2011, which resulted in a much larger proportion of fatalities from the ensuing tsunami than the earthquake itself. Read more…

Autism and excessive folate use in pregnancy

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Within the last week there has been considerable media coverage of a study which potentially suggests there may be a link between excessive folic acid use in pregnancy and autism. Folic acid supplementation has of course long been recommended for use in pregnancy in the prevention of spina bifida (a condition where the spine does not develop properly) and other birth defects. Headlines have included ‘too much supplements during pregnancy may raise autism risk’ and ‘excessive folate use by pregnant women can  increase risk for autism in children, study says’. These headlines will be nothing short of alarming for every prospective parent who reads them. But what is the science behind these headlines? Read more…

Superheroes headlines; not entirely a media hype

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Recent headlines have been dominated by superheroes. The articles refer to a new scientific breakthrough that has identified “13 genetic superheroes” walking among us who can do nothing less than save the world as suggested by The Guardian. The Daily Mail also mentions in the title the “superhero” but allude to the main issue of the study adding a question “Are YOU a genetic ‘superhero’? Doctors discover 13 people who are resistant to severe inherited diseases – and there may be more”. Similarly The Independent talks about the Superheroes and further reveal we actually do not know who they are: “Genetic superheroes’ are real and could lead to life-saving treatments – but nobody can talk to them”. Read more…

Join us at the Edinburgh International Science Festival

Research the Headlines

On Monday (4 April), Sinead Rhodes (Co-Chair of Research the Headlines) will join colleagues from Sense About Science, the Nappy Science Gang and The Young Academy of Scotland to Ask for Evidence, part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Come along and hear about how research is reported, or misreported, in the media and what it might mean for you. Read more…

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