The Business Of Research and Scientific Studies- How Right is John Oliver?

Governments and organisations around the globe of spend a lot of money on research. Studies are published yearly and part of that information is of course made available to the public. Although a lot of people respect scientific knowledge and new discoveries, it can be quite discouraging  to see journalists misreport those findings to an extent of misinforming and misleading the public.-  I don’t dispute that some studies indeed may sound incomplete or even have a broad conclusion.

In some reports, some studies are made to sound some how ridiculous. Like smelling gas! Really? Of course they relied on studies for their stories- Scientific studies, for that matter! To some, some studies could sound quite too funny to even take the findings seriously! And that’s where the problem lies-Missing the point. And missing an important message may have consequences as well.

Does that mean that science is getting lost in translation? Or does the problem lie on the proportion of science‐trained reporters in the news media?

Recall that study by  World Health Organisation  in 2015, which revealed that eating processed meats like bacon, ham, hot dogs and sausage puts you at risk of getting cancer? I will never forget the reactions i saw from meat devotees. Even for business owners, especially in the meat industry.  I’ll never forget the conversations i had with a local butchers, here in Konstanz, Germany.

“That report couldn’t be true. It’s less convincing,” some said

“And it’s bad for business.”

Even some were not ready to give up their portions of yummy saucy steaks, It’s  was obvious that the first reaction from a large number consumers concerned about their health, would have simply been to stay away from eating meat!

I came across an article by John Wilkes, Founder of UCSC’s Science Communication Program, which discusses the importance of quality of science reporting. He notes

While the quality of science reporting has grown noticeably better, scientists note that there is still a lot of room for improvement

Absolutely! I agree with him.

When bad science makes headlines, who is to blame for misleading the public?

I am a huge fan of John Oliver’s satirical show, Last Week Tonight. And i like the way he dives into this topic. Critics may have a different opinion about his views on ‘science journalism’, but i like the way he looks at published scientific research and the way that information is communicated to the public.  Take a look. It’s worth your time.


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