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From WSJ Blog: Academic Medical Centers Often Guilty of Research Hype

Surprise, surprise...

From the WSH Health Blog:


The media may be guilty of exaggerating the results of medical studies, but academic medical centers that hype the results aren’t blameless themselves.

A piece out in the Annals of Internal Medicine takes a look at press releases that academic medical centers sent out about their research, examining such details as whether they gave information on the studies’ size, hard results numbers and cautions about how solid the results are and what they mean. The conclusion: The press releases “often promote research that has uncertain relevance to human health and do not provide key facts or acknowledge important limitations.”

The authors, led by Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz of Dartmouth, looked at releases from EurekAlert issued by 20 academic medical centers and their affiliates in 2005. (EurekAlert compiles many press releases and sends them to journalists.) The researchers found that 58 out of 200 releases, or 29%, exaggerated the findings’ importance.

Exaggeration was more common in releases about animal studies than human studies. Out of the 200 releases, 195 included quotes from the scientific investigators: 26% of them were “judged to overstate research importance,” the authors write.

Our own J-school prof, Gary Schwitzer, gets plaudits from the WSH blog for his recent work:

Woloshin and Schwartz have written before about medical research and the media, including another piece about flawed press releases from medical journals and one about news reports that “often omit basic study facts and cautions” about research presentations at scientific meetings. They’re not the only ones who make a case that journalists don’t cover medicine very well.

There is a link to a pieced on Gary's work:

How Do American Journalists Cover Medicine? Not Very Well

including his excellent paper in the PLOS.

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