Professor Newman’s article should be read in full. It tells how a group deliberately created spurious research on dark chocolate which was then reported around the world as fact. This was done to expose the prevalence of junk science and sensation driven press coverage. Here is an extract from the article.
Firstly, they invented a name and created a website for what sounded like an influential scientific organisation to run the study – The Institute of Diet and Health.
Secondly, to gain a newsworthy outcome from the trial, they worked on the principle that if you measure a large number of factors from a very small sample, you are almost certain to get a “statistically significant” result. By ensuring that their clinical trial had an extremely small sample of 15, but measured a wide range of variables – 18 to be exact – including weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein, sleep quality, and general well-being, they were confident of a newsworthy finding.
As John Bohannon explained, “We didn’t know exactly what would pan out — the headline could have been that chocolate improves sleep or lowers blood pressure — but we knew our chances of getting at least one ‘statistically significant’ result were pretty good.”
Thirdly, once the research was concluded and the report was written, it was submitted to a number of journals that didn’t require peer reviews. For a payment of 600 Euros, The International Archives of Medicine published the paper.
Finally, to signal accompany the publication of the report, a press release was carefully designed to “exploit journalists’ incredible laziness”.
Thanks to “cut and paste” journalism, the research was widely reported around the world. Those media outlets that published it clearly did not look into the legitimacy of the Institute of Diet and Health, the quality of the research with its tiny sample, nor the reputation of a journal that published scientific studies without subjecting them to peer reviews. As a result, the bogus diet research was reported world-wide as fact.
The whole exercise was carefully planned to expose the prevalence of junk science and sensation driven press coverage. The team wanted to demonstrate just how easy it is for people to be conned over so-called scientific evidence, and they highlighted the need for far more scrutiny – and scepticism.
As John Bohannon explained in an interview on CBS News, “The world is just drowning in all this pseudoscience and when there is science, it’s very poorly reported. We [journalists] should be doing a better job.”
The point is that junk science and hype-driven press coverage, doesn’t just apply to the diet industry. Dubious research can be found in all sorts of areas to justify claims for political or financial advantage. But nowhere is it more evident than in the field of climate change.
But it isn’t only on a global scale that lies can be created by sensational headlines. Take Waiheke for example. Our so-called newspapers create misleading alarmist headlines each week. These papers have no credible journalists. Any Gulf News writer must be prepared to push the extreme left wing views of Liz Waters, while Marketplace employs hard left Green Party list MP Denise Roche’s former spin doctor. Neither paper is a credible source of factual information.
This week Waters ran a non article under the alarmist headline ‘Oil pollutes Oneroa Stream’. Most readers get no further than the headline. If they did they would read that this is all speculation from ‘Project Oneroa’ run by Green Party front organisation Waiheke Resources Trust. The Trust is the recipient of large amount of ratepayers money through grants so far totalling nearly $200,000. One such grant has been received to ‘clean up Little Oneroa stream’ supposedly. Yet the results of independent surveys of the whole catchment area carried out by environmental experts (real science rather than the junk science quoted in the article) over many years always conclude that the stream is not polluted.
It can be no coincidence that this 'news' appeared in the Gulf News less than a week after I had exposed the rort that is the Waiheke Resources Trust.
Now that Waters has her ‘dream’ Board of hard left watermelons (Green on the outside, red on the inside) she allows her paper to be used as their propaganda sheet. The same applies to the Marketplace. Writers have neither the intelligence nor the will to question statements and opinions peddled as fact by the Board. There is little or no attempt to put an alternate point of view. Opposing voices are simply denied publication.
From big lies like climate change to small lies like ‘oil is polluting our streams’ the media buys into junk science. They peddle it with junk journalism. We should all be sceptical all of the time about what we read in the 'news' papers.
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