Skip to content

Thin end of the wedge?

The emergence of extremely drug resistant bacteria could prove to be the first of many.

In the last week, two publications have appeared in the press describing the worrying emergence of bacteria that are resistant to many of the drugs we normally use to treat such infections. A lot has been written in the last few years regarding the threat of antimicrobial resistant infections, but it is clear, the more we look for these infections, the more we find them and the more dynamic the organisms causing them appear to be. Drug resistant infections are a global problem and the movement of people around the world can lead to the dissemination of drug resistant bacteria and both of these reports highlight this as a problem.

The first report was In the USA Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in their ‘Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report’, which was described widely in the press (Daily Mail, The Independent and the BBC Website).

Read more…

Evidenced based television soap coverage of late miscarriage

We have previously discussed television soap opera coverage of sensitive issues, such as mental health that was addressed in EastEnders last year. In recent days, another soap, Coronation Street, has been covering the highly sensitive issue of late miscarriage.

Long standing actress Kym Marsh, who plays Michelle was seen on Wednesday night’s episode giving birth to a baby who was not breathing at 23 weeks. The programme is to be commended for the evidence-based approach they took to covering this important and rarely discussed issue.

Read more…

Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence not opinion

Children’s use of technology, from iPads to playstations, television and internet exposure, is frequently discussed in the media.  Here at Research the Headlines we have discussed several examples of such media coverage – an example from September 2015 is reblogged below.  It was very welcoming then, to see a letter published in the Guardian last Friday signed by a group of psychologists (which includes 3 of the experts we interviewed in our Talking Headlines series, Dorothy Bishop, Suzi Gage and Kevin Mitchell) and other child development experts raising concern about how screen time guidelines ‘need to be built on evidence and not hype’. This letter was a response to a previous letter published in the Guardian that raised concerns about screen time without drawing on evidence.

Read more…

Talking Headlines: John Curtice

John Curtice is Senior Research Fellow at NatCen, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, and Chief Commentator on the What UK Thinks: EU and What Scotland Thinks websites.  He has been a regular contributor to the British Social Attitudes Report series since 1986 and an editor since 1994. He has also been a Co-Director of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey since its foundation in 1999, and his analyses of Scottish public opinion in the run up to the independence referendum were frequently featured throughout the campaigns. John is a regular media commentator on both British and Scottish politics. He is also President of the British Polling Council. Read more…

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.

Read more…

Talking Headlines: Dr Phillip Williamson on the importance of correcting misinformation in the media

Dr Phillip Williamson is an associate fellow at the University of East Anglia, employed by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).  His science coordination work includes programmes on ocean acidification (completed), shelf sea biogeochemistry (ongoing) and greenhouse gas removal (planned), all co-funded by NERC and UK government departments. Misleading reporting on ocean acidification has led to Dr Williamson to become a strong proponent of countering poor reporting and misinformation in the media, as shown by his recent column in Nature.

Read more…

Don’t put on the kettle just yet…

On my Twitter feed, I noticed some scientists complaining about the lack of citation in a recent Guardian column, “The psychology behind a nice cup of tea“, reporting that research finds “hot drinks warm our personalities as well as our bellies”. So I put on my detective cap, fired up Google, and found the original study in about 30 seconds with the search term “holding warm drinks study” (it was number 3 on the list). But because I’m a psychologist and am interested in the recent efforts to increase the replicability of psychological science, I also Googled “holding warm drinks replication”. There I found a pre-registered replication plan, which is a document that details exactly how a team of scientists plan to replicate an existing research finding and how they plan to analyse the results. That way, there can be little leeway to engage in what scientists call researcher degrees of freedom, or changing small things about the analysis until a proposed effect “works”. So how does the original study hold up?

Read more…

Sex and spirituality, a new entry to oxytocin magic properties

I have noticed that my last few posts have praised media reporting either in relation to not reacting to articles that had the potential to generate catchy headlines or in working closely with scientists to write accurately about their work.

So I decided to have a look and see if, maybe, the time has come for our blog to be no longer needed. Unfortunately, I did not have to look for too long. All I had to do was to try the always-reliable strategy to type “oxytocin” into Google News and see in which new context or with which miraculous effect this hormone has been involved in the latest research. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide (i.e. a small protein required to transmit information across neurons; see the picture for its formula, also a popular tattoo idea) described to be involved in social bonding, sexual reproduction and childbirth. Because of these functions, it is referred to as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone”. These are types of love, happiness and intelligence that you can buy, as oxytocin is available on Amazon.  You can check out the reviews to see how effective it is.

Read more…

Diet Coke WON’T stop you getting diabetes

An article published in Daily Mail on 3rd Nov 2016, reported on the study conducted at Karolinska Institute in Sweden that studied 2,874 adults who had completed a year-long diary about their intake of drinks. They reported that the Karolinska team found that drinking just two glasses of diet drinks a day more than doubles the risk of developing diabetes. Those who had two or more sweetened drinks a day were 2.4 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. They went on to say that these drinks included sugary beverages and artificially sweetened ones, such as Diet Coke or sugar free cordials.

Considering that we have been told for years that to cut down calories and lower our risk of diabetes and heart disease we must cut down on sugary drinks, this obviously came as a shock to most of us. So what did the study find?

Read more…

Delving into the Living Planet Index: a single metric for a complex problem

Simple, summary statistics are a great way to get people’s attention and demonstrate the seriousness of an issue. However, simple metrics can also mask different trends, be based on biased data and can be misleading if not reported correctly, as we have previously reported in Research the Headlines.

WWF, in collaboration with the Zoological Society for London, recently released their Living Planet Index (LPI): this shows the change in abundance of animal populations over time. The 2016 LPI was based on trend data from 14,152 populations from 3,706 vertebrate species. This is a large dataset and the overall trend is clear and compelling: multiple threats, including habitat loss and degradation, climate change, and direct hunting, contributed to a decline of 58% in animal populations over the last forty years.

Read more…