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An article worth paying attention to - fuller comment

Posted by PaulTSeed on 28 Feb 2013 at 15:12 GMT

Mistakes matter. If they get into the press, they can put the health of the public at risk.

In every case identified (17/17) where the original article was flawed, so was the news report. Usually, when the article was OK, so were the press release (21/24) and the news report (20/24). Our mistakes matter. Particualrly in the conclusion section of the abstract. (Information from figure 2). However, for the 24 occassions where no flaw was identified in the article, only 3 times was the press release or news report flawed, so it is hard to blame the problem on journalists or the writers of press releases.

In the one example quoted in detail (figure 3), the flaw followed from not following best practice as laid down on the CONSORT guidelines & elsewhere. It should have been caught & corrected during peer review.

As researchers and journal reviewers we need to get articles correct (and in particular the crucial conclusion section of the abstract), and where appropriate to check the press release has not distorted what was said.

Paul T Seed, Senior Lecturer in Medical Statistics,
Division of Women’s Health, King’s College London
Women’s Health Academic Centre, King's Health Partners

No competing interests declared.