Looking Back on Research the Headlines in 2016
By most measures, the last 12 months have been epoch-making. From the UK’s decision to Brexit, to the USA’s decision to elect Donald Trump as President, we have seen again and again the importance of the media in shaping and driving public opinion, and the waning importance of fact in our political discourse.
At Research the Headlines, we try to remain as unbiased as possible when evaluating the media’s skill in translating academic research into news stories, and we will continue into 2017. This year, we addressed topics such as ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, dogs in shelters, how we measure the damage humanity is causing to the natural world, teenage suicide, dementia, asteroids and earthquakes.
Nevertheless, we know that as members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland, our duty to the people of Scotland (and the world) is more pressing than ever. Over the last year we have watched “fake news” grow from a minor nuisance into a weapon, whose target is the electorate. We have spent the last 3 years describing how genuine attempts to communicate research falls short (or excels). Now we will be on alert for malevolent viral stories as well.
It may have been a gloomy 2016 for many, but I see small rays of hope in our blog’s archive. We’ve seen some really great examples of the media addressing difficult topics – our favourite example this year is the portrayal of mental health in soaps.
Our Rewrite the Headlines competition winners (whose entries you can read on our site) have shown us that the next generation are not so easily tricked as ours. I take comfort in the wisdom of our young people, and myself and the RtH team will continue to help them (and you) make sense of the media in these most challenging times.