If this becomes accepted practice among journals, then the media could also reflect this in the way they report medical research news. Nearly 1 in 5 news stories based on mature research did not give a journal reference and only 2 in 5 news stories based on preliminary findings stated the information source. Clear citation of sources is essential if the media wish to convey accuracy and trustworthiness of medical information. This practice also allows readers to verify the quality of medical research news, especially because news stories may sometimes challenge the findings of published journal papers, as we noted in a small proportion of stories.

Healthy debate of peer-reviewed research is to be encouraged, as long as such news stories help readers identify the current best evidence and clarify the context of findings without prioritizing selected opinions over others or over conclusions of published studies [26]. Finally, medical research news dealing with public, environmental and occupational health was often covered on front pages by the press. This trend may be related to the underlying preference for topics of research covered in OSs. Alternatively, perhaps the public tends to be interested in issues of public, environmental and occupational health and the majority of these studies are observational.

Also, the widespread news coverage of the Women's Health Initiative trial [18] accentuated our study's profile of women's health and demonstrates the influence that a single journal article can have on news coverage [27]. Further studies may reveal whether the media have preferences in reporting certain health topics and if the preferences are related to the maturity and quality of the data source. An important strength of our study is the systematic selection of a large number of front-page medical research stories reporting on research findings in 47 English-language newspapers over a 3-year period.

However, we noted the absence of some high-profile newspapers— Baltimore Sun , Los Angeles Times , and The Times London —on the LexisNexis source list; the first two were unavailable on LexisNexis within the study period of —, and the third's front-page stories could not be distinguished from other pages. There is also a bias toward US newspapers. Our selection of front-page medical stories may therefore be representative of only major newspapers that agreed to archive stories in LexisNexis, were not date-restricted, and did not have variable page numbering.

Finally, our classifications of published studies relied mainly on checking journal abstracts, but the accuracy of data presented in abstracts may be deficient and even inconsistent with corresponding data presented in the full journal article [28].


  1. Characteristics of Medical Research News Reported on Front Pages of Newspapers.
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We encourage journalists to clearly distinguish whether medical research news is based on mature research or studies with preliminary findings; reference and cite sources well; and become familiar with EBM principles, especially when preparing front-page and hence high-profile medical news stories. Medical reporters and media organizations could enhance their reputations by advocating responsible medical news reporting, including mentioning evidence levels and study limitations [29].

Ultimately, researchers and reporters must work together on improving communication of medical research news, and researchers who present preliminary research at scientific and press conferences should routinely and explicitly include limitations and an appraisal of the level of evidence presented.

Recently, a growing number of initiatives such as the Hitting the Headlines and Media Doctor websites are diligently monitoring the quality of medical news stories [30] — [33]. We hope such initiatives will inform the medical news reporting procedure. Performed the experiments: WYYL. Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract Background The placement of medical research news on a newspaper's front page is intended to gain the public's attention, so it is important to understand the source of the news in terms of research maturity and evidence level.

Funding: The authors have no support or funding to report. Introduction Popular media such as newspapers are commonly the initial source of medical research news for both medical professionals and the public [1] — [4]. Methods Data Sample and Study Maturity We searched LexisNexis, an electronic news archive, for medical and health stories published on the front pages of any section of newspapers during a 3-year period from January 1, to December 31, Download: PPT.

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Figure 1. Categorization of front-page medical news stories between and that reported research findings.

Evidence Levels Next, we used abstracts of retrieved journal articles corresponding to the research reported in the news story to categorize the study design and hence the study's likely level of evidence. Research Topic We classified the topic of each journal article using an expanded range of focus topics used by Bartlett et al [17]. Statistical Analysis All source classifications according to publication status, level of evidence, study type, and research topic were done by one researcher.

Front-page Medical Research News Based on Mature Studies The front-page stories reporting on mature research were each based on findings from 1 to 4 published studies, with a total of mentions of research studies published in distinct journal articles. Table 1. Table 2. Front-page Medical Research News Based on Preliminary Findings A total of front-page stories were each based on preliminary findings from 1 to 5 studies, with a total of mentions of research from distinct studies.

Discussion This is the first study to examine the characteristics of a cross-section of front-page medical research news in major newspapers in terms of research maturity and associated level of scientific evidence. Strengths and limitations of the study An important strength of our study is the systematic selection of a large number of front-page medical research stories reporting on research findings in 47 English-language newspapers over a 3-year period.

Supporting Information. Table S1. Table S2.

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Table S3. References 1. N Engl J Med — View Article Google Scholar 2. Nelkin D Selling Science: How the press covers science and technology. New York: WH Freeman. Wilkes MS The public dissemination of medical research: problems and solutions. J Health Commun 2: 3— View Article Google Scholar 4.

Kiernan V Diffusion of news about research. Sci Commun 3— View Article Google Scholar 5. Science — View Article Google Scholar 6.

Does the article support its claims with scientific research?

Wilkie T Sources in science: who can we trust? Lancet — View Article Google Scholar 7. View Article Google Scholar 8. View Article Google Scholar 9. Altman LK The doctor's world: For science's gatekeepers, a credibility gap. New York Times. View Article Google Scholar Stewart CN Press before paper—when media and science collide. Nat Biotechonol 4: — JAMA — BMJ 71— Accessed Aug NHMRC A guide to the development, implementation and evaluation of clinical practice guidelines. Longitudinal study of the reporting of medical research in two British newspapers.

BMJ 81— Wager E, Middleton P Effects of technical editing in biomedical journals: a systematic review. The dissemination and adoption of preliminary research results. J Natl Cancer Inst — Woloshin S, Schwartz LM Media reporting on research presented at scientific meetings: more caution needed.


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  • Med J Aust — BMJ The Nation 13— Hum Commun Res — MDS Monitoring the quality of medical news reporting: early experience with media doctor. Initial findings from a year and a half of media monitoring by Media Doctor Canada. Schwitzer G How do US journalists cover treatments, tests, products, and procedures? Your current city: Mumbai Mumbai search close. All Bombay Times print stories are available on. We serve personalized stories based on the selected city OK. Go to TOI.

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