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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, 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 two studies reporting results on monitoring prostate cancer versus surgery or radiotherapy, and survival and cancer progression

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has reported that surgery or radiotherapy treatment of prostate cancer is associated with lower disease progression risk than active monitoring of the cancer, while a second study in the same journal which reports differences between three different treatment choices on patient-reported outcomes such as bowel or urinary function. read more

expert reaction to paper describing development of embryos from non-egg cells

In a discovery that challenges two centuries of received biological wisdom, scientists at the University of Bath have for the first time used sperm to fertilise non-egg cells – resulting in live mammalian births. Eggs can be tricked into developing into an embryo without fertilisation, but the embryos, called parthenogenotes, die after a few days. Scientists at Bath have developed a method of injecting mouse parthenogenotes with sperm so that they can go on in many cases to become healthy pups. read more

expert reaction to review of evidence on efficacy and safety of statins

The public row about statins has had an impact on patient attitudes and the take up of the drugs, but patients, doctors and the wider public are still left confused about the absolute harms and benefits of statins. A major review, published in The Lancet, brings together all evidence to date on statins to clarify what the risks and benefits are in order to help doctors, patients and the wider public make informed decisions about their use. read more

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