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roundups & rapid reactions
before the headlines
Fiona fox's blog

roundups & rapid reactions

Rapid reactions: responding to breaking news. The demands of the 24-hour media machine mean that news journalists often don’t have the luxury of time to track down the best scientists when a science story lands on their desks, so availability can sometimes win out over expertise. This is where the Science Media Centre steps in. When a story breaks – whether it’s the latest flu epidemic or health scare, or a potential nuclear crisis – the SMC persuades leading experts to drop everything and engage with the story, then contacts journalists at all the major news outlets to offer those experts for interviews or immediate comment.


Roundups: putting new research into context. One of the other ways the SMC ensures that the media have easy access to scientists and their views is by offering journalists a variety of comments from scientists reacting to the latest research. This service differs from our ‘rapid reactions’ as scientists have time to react before new research is announced, rather than in response to breaking news.

With access to embargoed journals before publication, we can pick stories of most interest to journalists, asking third party experts to provide comments and information to put research into context before it appears in the media. The SMC’s unique roundups help busy journalists critically analyse the strengths and weaknesses of new research, and highlight when studies are very preliminary or display a correlation that should not be read as causation. Equally, when leading scientists are excited about a significant study this can reassure journalists that the study should feature strongly in their coverage.

expert reaction to study on sugary beverages and age at onset of menstruation

A paper published in the journal Human Reproduction has examined an association between intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and the age of onset of menstruation. The researchers report a younger age for those with a higher intake which they suggest is independent of BMI, but recognise that there may be confounding factors not accounted for. read more

expert reaction to changes in brain white matter in children suffering neglect

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics has examined the structure of the brains of infants in care homes, and compared children who remained in institutions with those who were placed in foster care. The researchers report associations between neglect of those in care homes in early life and poor quality of development of various parts of the brain. read more

expert reaction to study on impact of statins and cholesterol on coronary heart disease mortality

Researchers have published in the BMJ Open their work attempting to quantify the effects of medications and changes in health on mortality from coronary heart disease. They report that reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol levels across the population contributed to reducing mortality, and that statins also played a part but that this effect was more pronounced in higher socioeconomic bands. read more

expert reaction to paper on hormonal contraceptives and brain tumours

A study published in the journal of Clinical Pharmacology has looked at the use of hormonal contraceptives and a link with brain tumours. The researchers report an association between ever using these contraceptives and incidence of glioma, which increase with duration of use, though they recognise potential confounding factors. read more

expert reaction to video-based therapy for autism

In a paper published in the Lancet Psychiatry, a group of researchers have studied the effects of using a video-based intervention for infants with familial risk of autism. The research team report that the intervention produced positive outcomes in terms of behaviour, developmental, and and brain function. read more

expert reaction to paper on salt intake, mortality and cardiovascular disease

Researchers publishing in JAMA Internal Medicine have examined the relationship between salt consumption and cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and death. The team focused on adults aged 71-80 and monitored them for ten years, finding that there wasn’t an association between the negative outcomes which they monitored and salt intake. read more

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