During this time of fake news, it is not unusual for social media users-including US president-to accuse journalists of doing bad deeds. Sadly, when it comes to the coverage of scientific studies especially, there are some facts about these allegations. Scientist writers sometimes aggravate claims based on research findings, and now a Twitter account exists only to highlight a particular variety of misleading stories.
The account @justsaysinmice tweets about stories relying on a mice study to make claims about human health. It has been less than a month and only issued seven tweets in this writing, but it has 24,600 followers (rising from 21,500 when I started drafting this story). The scientist who runs this feed, James Heathers, has its own Twitter account, @amesames that by contrast has only about 5,100 followers, although it exists since September 2011 and provided more than 3,000 tweets.
The heathers are, according to his personal website, an Australian research at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he works in the computational behavioral science lab. "I like the method," she wrote. "I make novel strategies for analyzing data on biological and social sciences, and then urgently tell people about them."
Perhaps what inspired him to start Just Says on the Mice account. In any case, he seems to be meeting a need, based on the fast where he gathers followers and concerns expressed by other researchers and academics previously.
"Let me begin with a bold assertion: A major problem facing journalists in science is that they have trouble talking about what's true," Sharon Dunwoody, a professor of Evjue-Bascom at University of Wisconsin-Madison of journalism, wrote in an article in 2014 in Sci Dev Net. He says that reporters are inadequate to know about all the other research they need to cover to accurately deliver the implications, and indicate that writers are better to write about the weight of evidence rather than decide if a particular science claim is true. The publishers, he argues, should show both support and opposition to a particular theory, leaving the final judgment on readers.
Of course, for reporters, not just pressure to understand the story, get facts right, and work on the deadline. Scientists and other editors should also make scientific stories that are relevant to readers. The need to lead to the kind of hyped-up claims that Heathers are outing in is Just Mice. It may not be interesting for readers to discover that a particular development, which seems to be affecting rodents, is actually a year that is far from the stage of human research and more from clinical use. So even though these facts can be revealed in a story, headlines written to attract readers often do not make critical differences.
But if Mice says enough of major publications on harmful tweets, and proves popular over time it is in a short time since its inception, we can soon see the word "mice "in a lot of the headlines of science. And you know why.
As for the Quartz, make sure that reporters here have long been warned about limitations in scientific studies, and rats feature our headlines.