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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 two papers studying human embryo development

Mouse models of embryo development have told us a great deal about the early stages of life, but until now attempts to model these stages using human embryos have been unable to take us beyond the first few days of development, past the stage where the embryo implants itself into the womb. Now, in parallel papers in Nature and Nature Cell Biology, two international teams report the development of a technique that allows scientists to culture human embryos further than ever before, up to day 13 of development, the limit allowed by law. read more

expert reaction to the effects of different neonicotinoids on bumblebees

There is growing concern over the impact of the neonicotinoids to insect pollinators and how their loss may limit the ecosystem services that are vital to our food production (globally worth US$215 billion) and the stability of our natural environment. In a new study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers directly relate the effects of three neonicotinoids, at the level of individual brain cells to their impact on whole colonies of bumblebees placed at 5 different sites across Scotland. read more

expert reaction to study commenting on Mediterranean diet, Western diet, and risk of heart attack and stroke in people with existing heart disease

Publishing in the European Heart Journal, a group of researchers have examined the effect of diet on patients with coronary heart disease and report that greater consumption of healthy foods (such as in a typical Mediterranean diet) may be more important than avoidance of unhealthy foods (such as in a typical Western diet) for prevention of further instances of heart disease. read more

expert reaction to report on diesel vehicle emissions testing programme

The Department of Transport (DfT) has published its research into emissions levels from diesel cars following a scandal which revealed that several companies had been manipulating emission controls. The DfT report that, for all vehicles which they tested, nitrogen oxide conditions were higher in real world conditions than in laboratory conditions. read more

expert reaction to UK dementia rates

In a new study, published in Nature Communications, researchers compared the actual number of dementia cases in the UK to earlier decades and previous predictions. They report a 20% drop in incidence of dementia between their two samples (1989-1994, 2008-2011) which they attribute mainly to a reduction in men. read more

expert reaction to today’s clarification of the anti-lobbying clause

The government has clarified in the House of Lords that it does not intend for the proposed anti-lobbying clause to cover academic researchers funded through the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, the research councils or national academies, and will consult further and make another announcement by May 1st. read more

expert reaction to IL-33 protein for dementia in mice

Finding the causes of, and treatments for, Alzheimer’s disease is important to reduce the burden of ageing, and the authors of a paper published in the journal PNAS report the use as a therapy of a particular protein which is involved in inflammation. read more

expert reaction to study investigating the relationship between fertility treatment, dense breast tissue, and potential breast cancer risk

Breast density is a known risk factor for breast cancer and a paper published in journal Breast Cancer Research has examined an association with infertility. The authors report that in their study women reporting infertility had higher levels of dense breast tissue and that treatment for fertility may also contribute to increased density. read more

expert reaction to study on vegetable oil, cholesterol levels, and risk of heart disease

Various components of diet have been linked to a range of diseases and the contribution of different types of fats to heart disease is the subject of a paper published in The BMJ. The authors reanalysed results from a trial which replaced saturated fats with vegetable oils, and they report that this led to cholesterol reduction but didn’t have a protective effect in terms of heart disease. read more

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