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Publication bias – and “why most biomedical findings echoed by newspapers turn out to be false”

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A paper in the online journal PLoS One looked at news coverage of studies on ADHD and concluded:

“Because newspapers preferentially echo initial ADHD findings appearing in prominent journals, they report on uncertain findings that are often refuted or attenuated by subsequent studies. If this media reporting bias generalizes to health sciences, it represents a major cause of distortion in health science communication.”

The authors further suggest:

“If further investigations of other health issues confirm our observations and reinforce our interpretations, it might be timely for scientists, journal editors and university media writers to define and respect ethical rules regarding health science communication. For example, press releases reporting on an initial study should include a warning statement pointing out that these findings must be confirmed by subsequent independent investigations. Indeed, the quality of press releases positively influences the quality of associated newspaper stories. The time would be also right to warn journalists about this major publication bias inherent to the scientific process.”

I’m traveling but wanted to post at least a quick notice about this.

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