How to read science news

2 Nov

A good post from Susanna h Locke at Vox on how to read science news:

“The world abounds with evidence and studies, some of it good and some of it poor. How can you know what to trust? This card stack aims to guide you through tricky issues that can cloud your understanding of scientific findings.

One major problem is that scientific lingo often means something different in common parlance. And these words can insidiously sneak into media coverage. Simple words such as theory, significant, and control have totally different meanings in the realm of science.

Another problem is that there’s no such thing as a perfect study. Experiments can suffer from issues in how they’re designed, how they’re analyzed— even how they’re reviewed by scientific journals.”

In a similar vein, ScienceNews reminds us “In science, popularity breeds unreliability:”

“Journalists also prefer to write about the “first report” of a finding. First reports are notoriously unreliable. Effects in first reports are commonly exaggerated or even wrong. In science, the second and subsequent reports confirming a finding are the keys for advancing knowledge. But journalists typically ignore second reports, as they are not, by definition, news.”

Hat tip to Retraction Watch


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