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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 recreational drug use during pregnancy

A paper published in the journal PLOS One has analysed the use of recreational drugs in women with normal pregnancies and those with foetal abnormalities. In a small sample size, they reported an increased incidence of foetuses with gastroschisis born to younger mothers, and an increase in abnormalities of the central nervous system in foetuses born to mothers who used recreational drugs before conception. read more

expert reaction to genetic influence on Ebola outcome in mice

Researchers writing in the journal Science have published the characterisation of a mouse model which displays human-relevant disease phenotypes when infected with a mouse-adapted Ebola virus. A range of effects from resistance to severe symptoms and death were seen, and these depended on the genetic background of the mice. read more

expert reaction to milk consumption, fractures and mortality

A paper published in The BMJ has shown an association between higher intake of milk and higher mortality in cohorts of men and women. In the cohort of women, they also observed a higher incidence of fractures with higher milk intake. The researchers recommend cautious interpretation of the data due to it being an observational study, and possible confounding effects. read more

expert reaction to cocoa and cognition

Researchers have published their findings in the journal Nature Neuroscience that diets high in flavanols, such as those found in cocoa, have beneficial effects in terms of neurology. In a small trial, they found that participants on a high flavanol diet performed better in cognitive tests, and were observed to have improved hippocampi as measured by fMRI. read more

expert reaction to new study on Arctic sea ice and colder winters in Europe and Asia

A paper published in the journal Nature Geosciences has explored the link between declining sea-ice in the Arctic, and colder Eurasian winters. Loss of sea-ice can disrupt patterns of air flow of different temperatures at high altitudes leading to changes in weather, but the researchers’ models predicted that these colder winters were unlikely to continue with further increases in global temperatures. read more

expert reaction to study modelling Ebola virus transmission in Liberia

Researchers publishing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal have modelled the spread of Ebola in Montserrado, Liberia. They put forward the likely effects of different levels of intervention and at different time points, in terms of number of cases averted, in relation to the current healthcare efforts. read more

expert reaction to obesity, diabetes and UV light

A study in the journal Diabetes has looked at the effects of vitamin D supplements or exposure to UV light on metabolic phenotypes in mice, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. The researchers suggest that while vitamin D supplements are often taken to combat deficiency, they do not reproduce the positive effects of exposure to UV radiation in sunlight in terms of these disorders. read more

expert reaction to side-effects of Parkinson’s drug

Researchers investigating previously known side effects of pharmaceuticals used to treat neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease have suggested that more warning labels should be included in packaging of these medicines. read more

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