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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 Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)

In a paper published in The Ageing Male journal, a team of researchers have worked to establish the effect of different testosterone treatments on a group of men. The paper reports that different testosterone preparations appeared equally safe over long time periods, with either no change or improvement of cardiovascular risk factors observed in the patients. read more

expert reaction to premature babies and personality disorders

In a paper published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal, a group of researchers have investigated a possible link between babies who were born very early or with a much lower than average weight, and different personality traits. The authors report that adults who were in either of those categories were more likely to display features of introversion, autism and neuroticism as well as lower risk taking. read more

expert reaction to genetics and GCSE achievement

Genes are thought to play a significant role in general educational achievement, although it is unclear how this might apply to individual academic subjects. A team of researchers has now investigated this by using the GCSE results of pairs of both identical and non-identical twins, and report that many academic subjects are influenced by the same genes, even after accounting for general intelligence. read more

expert reaction to study investigating sugar-sweetened drinks, artificially-sweetened drinks and type 2 diabetes incidence

Striking the right balance of components in our diets is an important but controversial area of research, and potential links between sugar, sweeteners and type 2 diabetes are explored in a paper published in The BMJ. The authors report an association between sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes, and also an association when examining artificially-sweetened drinks or fruit juices, though they suggest that there may be some biases causing the two latter links. read more

expert reaction to childhood psychiatric problems reaching adulthood

Publishing in JAMA Psychiatry, a group of researchers have examined the long-term health impacts of childhood psychiatric disorders, even if those specific disorders do not themselves persist. They report that patients with such a childhood psychiatric illness were at a greater risk of financial, legal, health or social problems, compared to people without such psychiatric issues. read more

expert reaction to antidepressants, painkillers and risk of bleeding

Examining possible associations between taking combinations of pharmaceutical drugs and risk of bleeding below the skull, researchers have published in The BMJ reporting an increased risk of bleeding in patients who combined antidepressants and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs compared to those who took only antidepressants. read more

expert reaction to tobacco and schizophrenia

It has previously been observed that sufferers of schizophrenia are more likely to be smokers, though mechanisms for this association have been lacking. This is the subject of a paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry, in which the authors report that daily tobacco use is associated with an increased risk of psychosis and an earlier age of onset. read more

expert reaction to study investigating climate change and bumblebee geographical ranges

The pollination of a large proportion of the world’s plants is attributed to bee species, and alterations in the geographical habitats of bumblebees is the focus of a paper published in the journal Science. The authors report differing patterns in terms of the shifting limits of habitat location, including the loss of ranges from southern extremes and movement to higher elevations among southern species. read more

expert reaction to study on antidepressant use in early pregnancy and risk of birth defects

The use of pharmaceutical drugs during pregnancy is an area of controversy, and a possible association between the use of certain antidepressants early in pregnancy and birth defects is the subject of a paper published in The BMJ. The authors report no association for some of the drugs that they tested, but an increased risk when using two specific selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). read more

expert reaction to results from gene therapy trial for cystic fibrosis

Genetic disorders underlie many diseases, and gene therapies have the potential to alleviate the severity of some conditions or even cure them. Researchers publishing in the The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal have detailed their use of a gene therapy to treat cystic fibrosis, reporting a modest and variable effect compared to placebo. read more

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