How many times have you turned on the TV only to hear about the latest study claiming eating too much of this or not enough of that causes cancer? This peddling of junk science, particularly by those in the media seeking headlines, is a major problem says Dr. Joseph Perrone, chief science officer for the Center for Accountability in Science.
And Dr. Perrone isn’t alone in his thinking. He says that, “According to Pew Research, ‘79 percent of scientists believe it is a major problem for science that news reports don’t distinguish between well-founded and non-well-founded scientific findings.’”
According to Dr. Peronne, the problem is that most reporters don’t have the training necessary to accurately analyze scientific studies. Instead, they report on studies they think will draw the most attention for the sake of headlines and website traffic.
“They rely on press releases distributed by university press offices that are designed to attract journalists’ attention, and often overstate the conclusions of the actual research,” writes Peronne. When journalists get ahold of the release, they may make another intellectual jump in order to create an attention grabbing headline.”
Dr. Peronne believes an egregious example of this sensationalism is the reporting on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and Bisphenol A.
Regulatory agencies around the globe rely on more than 2,000 studies that have deemed GMOs perfectly safe, “but with popular figures like Dr. Oz running a GMO segment titled ‘The Global Conspiracy to Keep You From Knowing the Truth About Your Food’ it’s no wonder only 37 percent of Americans agree GMOs are safe to eat,” says Dr. Perrone.
So next time you see a headline that makes you pause, you probably should pause – but only to take a closer look.