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Rewrite the Headlines – And the winner is…

by on 2016/01/29

Primary school children and university students have been unpicking the evidence to find the real research behind news headlines.

Rewrite the Headlines was a national competition encouraging school children and students to explore how the latest research is turned into headline news. The winners were announced yesterday at an event hosted by Our Dynamic Earth with special guest Dr Bunhead.

Working with schools and universities throughout Scotland, the Rewrite the Headlines competition aimed to help young people better understand what research is, how it gets translated from specialised areas to popular media, and then how they might translate it back.

The initiative was run by the academics and researchers behind Research the Headlines, a blog which discusses research and the media, created by members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland.

After completing workshops, schools were encouraged to find their own media report of research, unpick the story and then give the piece their own new headline. This new headline and a short explanation of their changes formed their entry into the Rewrite the Headlines competition.

The winning class, from St Roch’s Primary and Hearing Impaired School, Glasgow, turned the recent headline ‘Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO’, into ‘Eating processed meat slightly increases risk of cancer’. The research story was one which had generated a lot of interest and confusion when originally released and the judges were impressed with how the class explained their new headline.

Dr Sinead Rhodes, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences and Health at the University of Strathclyde, commented, “The class very cleverly explained the concept of risk and had worked out that eating processed meat is associated with an enhanced risk of one extra person per 100. They used this knowledge to alter the headline to be more accurate. It was great to see our schools really getting into their chosen stories, often coming up with much clearer headlines than the original.”

In the university category students were tasked with preparing a short blog exploring a recent research finding which had been discussed in the media and was open to students from across Scotland. Dr Alan Gow, Associate Professor in Psychology in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, noted, “We were delighted by the high quality of the entries received and the diversity of areas covered. The winning entries all showcased the skills the students have been developing during their undergraduate training in interpreting and evaluating research studies, and ensuring that these often complex findings are effectively communicated to different audiences.”

The winning undergraduate entry was from Abbey Wrathall, a student at the University of Edinburgh. In her blog entry entitled ‘So, should you wait until Monday to take your child to hospital?’, Abbey explored recent media coverage about whether weekend versus weekday hospital admissions might be associated with poorer outcomes. This topic is still very much in the news, and the judges recognised the importance of careful reporting given that it might directly affect the choices which people make.

Dr Gow said, “We’d like to thank the British Academy for funding this initiative. We’ve also been overwhelmed by the support received from our colleagues and universities, and the enthusiasm of the school children and students who took part.” Dr Rhodes added, “Given the interest in Rewrite the Headlines, we’re exploring further opportunities to ensure it can become an annual event.”

The winning entries will be showcased on the Research the Headlines blog from 1 February.


The full list of winners is:

School competition

Winning school:

St Roch’s Primary and Hearing Impaired School, Glasgow: ‘Eating processed meat slightly increases risk of cancer’

Original headline: ‘Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO’

Subject prize in Physics:

St Francis of Assisi Primary RC School, Glasgow: ‘12% chance that a large solar flare could hit Earth – The White House is taking notice’

Original headline: ‘White House is preparing for catastrophic solar flares which could wipe out power around the world for months – bringing an end to modern civilization as we know it’

Subject prize in Life Sciences:

St Joseph’s Primary School, Glasgow: ‘Scientists discover hormone in the fight against diabetes’

Original headline: ‘Forget the gym: Scientists discover a hormone that gives you the same benefits as exercise without breaking a sweat’

Runners-up:

Sandaig Primary School, Glasgow: ‘Roast and toast less for a healthier diet’

Original headline: ‘Your breakfast May give you cancer: Food safety watchdog warns dangers of crunchy toast and roast potatoes’

St. Mun’s Primary School, Dunoon: ‘Could The Fresh Sea Air Be Life Threatening?’

Original headline: ‘Fresh sea air ‘full of deadly pollution’’

Highly commended:

Towerbank Primary School, Edinburgh: ‘Aliens or otherwise? Unusual light patterns surrounding star confuses scientists’

Original headline: ‘’Alien megastructure’ could surround giant star baffling scientists looking for new planets’

St Fillan’s Primary RC School, Glasgow: ‘Can champagne boost the brain?’

Original headline: ‘Drinking three glasses of champagne every week ‘could prevent dementia’’

Milesmark Primary School, Dunfermline: ‘Some pigeons are smart enough to detect breast cancer, but not smart enough to replace doctors’

Original headline: ‘How pigeons can detect cancer – and could replace doctors’

Undergraduate competition: Titles of winning blogs

Winning student:

Abbey Wrathall, University of Edinburgh: ‘So, should you wait until Monday to take your child to hospital?’

Subject prize in Social Science:

Sarah Keith, University of Aberdeen: ‘Can films really boost your memory?’

Subject prize in History:

Dalia Sara Gala, University of Glasgow: ‘Ötzi the Iceman and his bacteria – did he really suffer?’

Subject prize in Social Policy:

David McElroy, Abertay University: ‘How did The Sun work out that “1 in 5 Brit Muslims have sympathy for jihadis”?’

Commended:

Fraser Barker, University of Strathclyde: ‘Will a square jaw help Trump win in 2016?’

Hannah Miller, University of Glasgow: ‘Can societies without electricity reveal how our ancestors slept?’

Emmi de Vries, University of Glasgow: ‘“Dr. Dillner’s Dilemma”. Or: The Challenges of a Practical Application of Research Findings’

Ajay Shah, University of St. Andrews: ‘OMG, Bacon Causes Cancer! (When Pigs Fly….)’


The Rewrite the Headlines competition was supported by funding from the British Academy, with additional funding from the University of Strathclyde.

Print

Prizes were supported by the British Academy, the University of Strathclyde, the School of Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews, the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde, the University of Dundee School of Life Sciences, and the Particle Physics Experiment Research Group at the University of Edinburgh, the Social Research Association, the Scottish History Society, and Palgrave Macmillan.

Competition details can be accessed at https://researchtheheadlines.org/rewritetheheadlines.

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