Newspapers biased toward reporting early studies that may later be refuted

Newspaper coverage of biomedical research leans heavily toward reports of initial findings, which are frequently attenuated or refuted by later studies, leading to disproportionate media coverage of potentially misleading early results, according to a report published Sep. 12 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers, led by Francois Gonon of the University of Bordeaux, used ADHD () as a test case and identified 47 scientific research papers published during the 1990's on the topic that were covered by 347 newspaper articles. Of the top 10 articles covered by the media, they found that 7 were initial studies. All 7 were either refuted or strongly attenuated by later research, but these later studies received much less media attention than the earlier papers.

The authors write that, if this phenomenon is generalizable to other health topics, it likely causes a great deal of distortion in health .

More information: Gonon F, Konsman J-P, Cohen D, Boraud T (2012) Why Most Biomedical Findings Echoed by Newspapers Turn Out to be False: The Case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44275. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044275

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Neglected tropical diseases rarely make the headlines

May 14, 2008

A new study of leading news organizations has found that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) rarely make headlines, despite the huge amount of illness, suffering, and poverty that they cause. The study is published May 14th ...

Newspapers lose their balance on climate coverage

Dec 01, 2011

The first of a two-part analysis of Australian press coverage of climate change, A Sceptical Climate, is based on a comprehensive review of 3971 media articles published in ten Australian newspapers on the topic of climate ...

Recommended for you

Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

5 hours ago

Each year thousands of students enroll in medical schools across the country. But just how many feel they've been disrespected, publicly humiliated, ridiculed or even harassed by their superiors at some point during their ...

Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

13 hours ago

When the young Thai woman saw an online ad seeking surrogate mothers, it seemed like a life-altering deal: $10,000 to help a foreign couple that wanted a child but couldn't conceive.

Nurses go on strike in Ebola-hit Liberia

14 hours ago

Nurses at Liberia's largest hospital went on strike on Monday, demanding better pay and equipment to protect them against a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed hundreds in the west African nation.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge arrives in North Korea

Aug 31, 2014

It's pretty hard to find a novel way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, but two-time Grammy-winning rapper Pras Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, has done it—getting his dousing in the center ...

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

User comments