The media monitor

Timothy Caulfield Credit: © Creative Services, University of Alberta" />Timothy Caulfield Credit: © Creative Services, University of AlbertaTimothy Caulfield has spent years listening to scientists complain that the media does a poor job of explaining science. As research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, he has heard this so often, he says, that he started to believe it too. Finally, he decided to find o

Elie Dolgin
May 1, 2008
<figcaption>Timothy Caulfield Credit: © Creative Services, University of Alberta</figcaption>
Timothy Caulfield Credit: © Creative Services, University of Alberta

Timothy Caulfield has spent years listening to scientists complain that the media does a poor job of explaining science. As research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, he has heard this so often, he says, that he started to believe it too. Finally, he decided to find out for himself.

Caulfield pored over the print media's coverage of genetic discoveries from around the English-speaking world and compiled a list of 627 newspaper articles reporting on 111 different scientific journal articles. Together with a team of coders, all of whom had scientific backgrounds, he compared the newspaper articles with the original journal studies for signs of technical errors or exaggerated claims of the research findings.

Contrary to perceived opinions, he found that only 11% of the media stories could be categorized as inaccurate or exaggerated ( Can...