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roundups & rapid reactions
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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 announcement of spending review and autumn statement

The chancellor has announced in the autumn statement and comprehensive spending review that the science budget will increase in real terms to £4.7 billion, while the budget for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be cut by 17%, for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by 15% and the Department for Energy and Climate Change by 22%. read more

expert reaction to Cochrane review of medication for ADHD

Publishing in The Cochrane Library a group of scientists have reviewed the evidence around the effects of a common drug which is used to treat ADHD in children and adolescents, reporting that methylphenidate is associated with some benefits but also an increased risk of “non-serious adverse effects”. read more

expert reaction to Nurse Review of Research Councils

Sir Paul Nurse has published his review of the structure of the UK’s research councils, which recommends preserving them and providing a formal organisation above them to improve certain processes such as funding and which would be a strengthened voice for science and research. read more

expert reaction to disability assessments linked to suicide

The health impacts of the government’s work capability assessment is the subject of a paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, with the authors reporting that “the programme of reassessing people on disability benefits using the Work Capability Assessment was independently associated with an increase in suicides, self-reported mental health problems and antidepressant prescribing.” read more

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