Claims of Causality in Health News: a Randomised Trial
Misleading news claims can be detrimental to public health. We aimed to improve the alignment between causal claims and evidence, without losing news interest (counter to assumptions that news is not interested in communicating caution). We tested two interventions in press releases, which are the main sources for science and health news: (a) aligning the headlines and main causal claims with the underlying evidence (strong for experimental, cautious for correlational) and (b) inserting explicit statements/caveats about inferring causality. The 'participants' were press releases on health-related topics (N = 312; control = 89, claim alignment = 64, causality statement = 79, both = 80) from nine press offices (journals, universities, funders). Outcomes were news content (headlines, causal claims, caveats) in English-language international and national media (newspapers, websites, broadcast; N = 2257), news uptake (% press releases gaining news coverage) and feasibility (% press releases implementing cautious statements). News headlines showed better alignment to evidence when press releases were aligned (intention-to-treat analysis (ITT) 56% vs 52%, OR = 1.2 to 1.9; as-treated analysis (AT) 60% vs 32%, OR = 1.3 to 4.4). News claims also followed press releases, significant only for AT (ITT 62% vs 60%, OR = 0.7 to 1.6; AT, 67% vs 39%, OR = 1.4 to 5.7). The same was true for causality statements/caveats (ITT 15% vs 10%, OR = 0.9 to 2.6; AT 20% vs 0%, OR 16 to 156). There was no evidence of lost news uptake for press releases with aligned headlines and claims (ITT 55% vs 55%, OR = 0.7 to 1.3, AT 58% vs 60%, OR = 0.7 to 1.7), or causality statements/caveats (ITT 53% vs 56%, OR = 0.8 to 1.0, AT 66% vs 52%, OR = 1.3 to 2.7). Feasibility was demonstrated by a spontaneous increase in cautious headlines, claims and caveats in press releases compared to the pre-trial period (OR = 1.01 to 2.6, 1.3 to 3.4, 1.1 to 26, respectively). News claims-even headlines-can become better aligned with evidence. Cautious claims and explicit caveats about correlational findings may penetrate into news without harming news interest. Findings from AT analysis are correlational and may not imply cause, although here the linking mechanism between press releases and news is known. ITT analysis was insensitive due to spontaneous adoption of interventions across conditions. ISRCTN10492618 (20 August 2015)
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will soon invite applications for open source software projects that are essential to biomedical research. Applicants can request funding between $50k and $250k for one year.
Report: Minimal Growth of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Medicine
Though there have been substantial efforts in increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in medicine, there has been minimal growth in people who identify as American Indian and Alaska Native and apply and enroll in medical school in the U.S., according to a new report released Tuesday.
Half of European Clinical Trials Haven’t Reported Results
EU rules say clinical trial results must be reported onto the EU register for every trial there within 12 months of the end of the trial, yet no one has ever been sanctioned for breaking the European rules. European academic institutes are lagging far behind companies in complying with the reporting rules.
New Report Says Individual Research Results Should Be Shared With Participants More Often
When conducting research involving the testing of human biospecimens, investigators and their institutions should routinely consider whether and how to return individual research results on a study-specific basis through an informed decision-making process, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Many biologists are still reluctant to submit preprints, in part out of concern that doing so will allow others to “scoop” their work and undermine their chances of publication in a prestigious journal. I would like to rebut that concern, among others, and to share our research group’s first experience submitting a preprint manuscript.
Life Science Alliance is a global, open-access, editorially independent, and peer-reviewed journal launched by an alliance of EMBO Press, Rockefeller University Press, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.