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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 paper presenting malaria vaccine trial results, and paper estimating malaria cases in Ebola-infected countries

Two papers have been published in the Lancet and Lancet Infectious Diseases journals: one which presents the results of a phase III clinical trial of a candidate malaria vaccine which the research team report to effective in reducing malaria transmission, and another which has estimated the number of cases of and deaths from malaria in West African countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak. read more

expert reaction to paper on genome editing of mitochondria in mice

Researchers have attempted to fix errors in mitochondrial DNA, which lead to a range of disorders, by using genome editing techniques. Publishing in the journal Cell, they report the use of the techniques in mice and suggest that they might in future be used as a therapeutic alternative to mitochondrial donation. read more

expert reaction to two new papers on bees and neonicotinoids

Two papers published in the journal Nature have examined possible effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on the health and behaviour of bees. The authors of the first paper report that in laboratory tests bees preferred neonicotinoid-treated sugar water to an untreated solution, while in field studies the authors of the second paper report that bumble-bee colonies around neonicotinoid-treated fields had reduced growth rates and reproduction. read more

expert reaction to study investigating cancer immunotherapy in mice

Researchers have published their work into immune responses and treatments in cancer in the journal Nature. The team report that the identification of mutations which are individual to each patient and tumour can be used as targets for the body’s own immune system, and suggest that the treatment could be used for personalised therapy. read more

expert reaction to two new papers – investigating frequency of e-cigarette use and smoking reduction or cessation, and investigating frequency and type of e-cigarette use and quitting smoking

The relationship between e-cigarette use and smoking cessation or reduction has been explored in two papers published in the journals Addiction and Nicotine & Tobacco Research. The authors of the first paper report that daily use of e-cigarettes appears to be associated with reducing but not quitting smoking at follow-up after one year, while the authors of the other paper report that different types of e-cigarette have different effects on likelihood of quitting smoking, with the tank models (but not cigalike models) appearing to be associated with quitting cigarette smoking. read more

expert reaction to survey on e-cigarettes and tobacco cessation

Attempting to explore the use of e-cigarettes in smokers and their effect on quitting smoking, researchers publishing in the American Journal of Public Health have reported that smokers who had ever used e-cigarettes were less likely to quit smoking than those who had never used e-cigarettes. read more

expert reaction to surveys of e-cigarette use in teenagers

Researchers publishing in the BMJ Open have surveyed a group of school-age children in Wales to examine habits around use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The study reports that regular smokers were more likely than non-smokers to use e-cigarettes, and that around 1.5% of those sampled regularly used of e-cigarettes. read more

expert reaction to depression, diabetes and dementia

As depression and diabetes are individually thought to be risk factors for dementia, a team of researchers has investigated the effects of having both depression and diabetes. Publishing in JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers report that the risk of developing dementia is greater for people with both depression and diabetes than would be expected by simple addition of the individual risks for each disease. read more

expert reaction to arginine and Alzheimer’s

A paper published in The Journal of Neuroscience has analysed the profiles of chemicals involved in immune signalling in mice which are used as a model of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers report that the disease is associated with an immunosuppressive pattern, in contrast to previous views which see the disease driven by immunity and inflammation. The study also reports low levels of a particular component of proteins in the brains of affected mice, and drugs which countered this also reduced measures of the disease and and presence of immunosuppressive cells. read more

expert reaction to dementia and body mass index

A study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal has investigated a link between BMI and risk of dementia in a group of people in the UK aged over 40. The authors report an inverse correlation between BMI and dementia risk, contrary to previous suggestions. read more

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