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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 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 reported 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

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