Why most reporting on medical research is crap

This spring, the journal “International Archives of Medicine” published a delicious new study: According to researchers at Germany’s Institute of Diet and Health, people who ate dark chocolate while dieting lost more weight. The media coverage was instantaneous and jubilant: “Scientists say eating chocolate can help you lose weight” read a headline in the Irish Examiner. “Excellent News: Chocolate…

Why simple statistics can be so very misleading

Anscombe’s quartet was mentioned in a discussion on the Political Methodology listserv, as to what journalists need to know to stop looking like idiots when they report on social science research: Counter to your intuition, all four sets of data have the exact same descriptive and bivariate statistics: Property Value Mean of x in each…

Rise of the planet of the economists

The economist Justin Wolfers, writing for the New York Times Upshot, reports that economists increasingly outnumber other social scientists in mentions in the both the Times and — even more — in the Congressional Record. About 1% of Times stories use the word “economist,” more than three-times as often as they write “sociologist.” Here’s his…

One-study wonders, research, and the minimum wage

Megan McArdle provides a nice overview of what we know about minimum wage hikes. What really struck me was her comments on “one-study wonders”: Alas, if only economic analysis were so easy. In fact, it’s very hard to study what happens when we raise the minimum wage. The people confidently proclaiming their ability to see the future…

Who is exaggerating research findings in the media?

Interesting question: is it academic researchers overselling their findings, or journalists hyping their story? The researchers found that 33 to 40 percent of the academic press releases exaggerated causation, advice, or inference in some way, and that the news articles took those claims and published them as is, or, in some cases, exaggerated them even…