HT03: Are independent experts featured in the article?
So now we come to our third tip to help you to “Research the Headlines“.
Part 3: Are independent experts featured in the article?
Here at Research the Headlines, we often discuss how research findings may have been presented in a biased way by the media. This relationship goes both ways and, of course, researchers may play up or down particular findings for various reasons. As well as this, research findings may not always be placed in a broader context by the particular researcher who conducted the study or by the media. So an important issue we have consistently raised in Research the Headlines is whether independent experts featured in the article to help address this balance?
The third of our top tips about How to “Research the Headlines” is to question whether independent experts have been asked to comment on the study findings in question. Fortunately, journalists are increasingly incorporating the views of independent experts in their articles. Many professional bodies have compiled registers of experts who are willing to speak to the media, so there is easy access to experts who are open to spending time conversing with the media about other studies in their field of expertise.
Research findings are open to bias. The same findings could easily be described and presented quite differently by two different experts whereby some findings are ignored and others given more specific focus. The use of independent experts by the media can help provide a more balanced view and understanding of the context of the research.
Many academic researchers now engage regularly with policy makers, the media and professional bodies—what is referred to as public engagement. Researchers will vary in the degree they do this though and some may not have thought of the implications of their findings for policy making or impact on society. Here is where the use of relevant experts from charities and other professional bodies comes into play. For example, we have written about a number of autism research studies in our blog posts. Several of the journalists who worked on these media articles have spoken to the National Autistic Society. This ensures understanding of the impact of the research findings on the lives of individuals with the disorder and their families.