02/06/08

Passion and chocolate in the national health service

passion fruitBritain’s National Health Service is getting passionate about chocolate, erections and good science. The NHS website has a fantastic new(ish) section called “Behind The Headlines”, a rapid-response force for some of the nonsense that passes for “science” in the newspapers every day.

In the last couple of weeks the site has picked up studies that purport to show that passion fruit peel cures asthma, that cocoa helps diabetics ward off heart disease (that one was funded by confectionery manufacturer Mars, funnily enough), and that diabetic men with droopy dicks are headed for heart attacks. Each study is evaluated and put into context, its findings are clarified and its limitations pointed out. The site could become a study of its own: which of Britain’s major news sources are most likely to turn bad science into great headlines?

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This post was published on 02/06/08 in Science.

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  1. Comment by Tim Worstall, 02/06/08, 02:03:

    “The site could become a study of its own: which of Britain’s major news sources are most likely to turn bad science into great headlines?”

    Ooooh, that’s a tricky one. It wouldn’t be the Daily Mail would it? Mel, MMR, Autism, Wakefield?

  2. Pingback by Organic Milk is Healthier?, 02/06/08, 02:13:

    […] just stumbled across (via) what looks like an excellent resource. OK, it’s funded by the NHS but it is indeed a public […]

  3. Comment by Nick, 03/06/08, 09:53:

    The Guardian’s Bad Science column ( http://www.badscience.net/ ) has been doing this for years – but good science is always welcome.

  4. Comment by Iain, 04/06/08, 10:05:

    Thanks for providing a link to this site, Elizabeth. It’s not quite the same as “Bad Science” in that Bad Science seems to focus on instances of outstanding bad reporting whereas the NHS site is more systematic and looks like it’s attempting to report, in non-technical language, what the scientific studies that led to the headlines actually found.

    I’m not certain that it’s a matter of “turning bad science into great headlines”. It’s more a matter of reporting science, whether good, bad, or indifferent, in ways that grab attention – though whether this more often involves reporting or misreporting is arguable.

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