NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine - https://archive.org/web/.

Heart journals ask scientist-authors to do what we’ve been teaching journalists for years

For years we have been coaxing and educating journalists – and the general public – to understand that the language used to describe studies – especially observational studies – is important. We have published a primer, “Does the Language Fit the Evidence?  Association Versus Causation.

Well don’t feel picked on any longer, journalists.  Some journals are now coaxing and educating scientist-authors of papers to learn the same lesson – and act on it

Editors of the HEART Group journals (they’re all listed on this statement of ethics from 4 years ago) issued a statement today that “inappropriate word choice to describe results can lead to scientific inaccuracy.” And they give examples almost identical to those we’ve posted in our primer for years.

They say that that the language used to describe an observational study should only make claims such as:

  • “a lower risk was observed”
  • “there is a relationship”
  • “there is an association”
  • “correlates with”
  • “is associated with.”

And they say that it is incorrect to describe such studies with language such as “reduced risk” or “lowered risk” or “benefitted.”

We applaud this move, don’t know why it took so long, and don’t know why other journals haven’t done the same thing.

A Reuters Health story captures the essence of the statement and quotes me:

“But this is a serious matter, said Gary Schwitzer, the publisher of HealthNewsReview.org, which critiques reporting on health and medicine. The language journals use, said Schwitzer, can affect the way journalists cover these studies.

“It leaves many in the general public feeling as if they’re watching a scientific and editorial ping-pong game,” Schwitzer told Reuters Health. “One day, we’re on this end, where coffee is protective against diabetes, and then the next week, we’re at the other end of the spectrum, and coffee consumption raises the risk of stroke.”

Schwitzer welcomed the journal editors’ efforts. Research and journalism – two intertwined industries, he said – “had better be concerned about credibility and public perceptions of what’s going on in the dissemination of information.”

“We’ve got a public that is dying for well explained, balanced, navigable information that includes caveats and context,” he said. “As somebody who looks at this every day, we’ve dug a very big hole that moves like this will help us start to crawl out of.”

Addendum on December 2  See two other recent articles:

(Hat tip to Ivan Oransky for these.)

 

——————————–

Follow us on Facebook,

and on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/garyschwitzer
https://twitter.com/healthnewsrevu

 

 

You might also like

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Comments are closed.