Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Heuristic for Sorting Science Stories in the News

"Ask yourself: if the study had come up with a negative result, would I be hearing about it? If NO, then don't bother to read or listen to the story"

The point of this blog is to argue that such selection bias is as nothing compared to the hurdles overcome by stories that are not only published, but publicised. For a study to be publicised, it must have:

  • Been considered worthwhile to write up and submit to a journal or other outlet
  • Have been accepted for publication by the referees and editors
  • Been considered ‘newsworthy’ enough to deserve a press release
  • Been sexy enough to attract a journalist’s interest
  • Got past an editor of a newspaper or newsroom.
Anything that gets through all these hurdles stands a huge chance of being a freak finding. In fact, if the coverage is on the radio, I recommend sticking your fingers in your ears and loudly saying ‘la-la-la’ to yourself.

- More Here

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