science journalism


To Err Is Human, To Study Errors Is Science

Posted 21 May 2014 by Jalees Rehman

The family of cholesterol lowering drugs known as 'statins' are among the most widely prescribed medications for patients with cardiovascular disease. Large-scale clinical studies have repeatedly shown that statins can significantly lower cholesterol levels and the risk of future heart attacks, especially in patients who have already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. A more contentious issue is the use of statins in individuals who have no history of heart attacks, strokes or blockages in their blood vessels. Instead of waiting... Read more

Neutrality, Balance and Anonymous Sources in Science Blogging – #scioStandards

Posted 24 February 2014 by Jalees Rehman

This is Part 2 of a series of blog posts in anticipation of the Upholding standards in scientific blogs (Session 10B, #scioStandards) session which I will be facilitating at noon on Saturday, March 1 at the upcoming ScienceOnline conference (February 27 – March 1, 2014 in Raleigh, NC - USA). Please read Part 1 here. The goal of these blog posts is to raise questions which readers can ponder and hopefully discuss during the session. 1.       Neutrality Neutrality is prized... Read more

Background Reading in Science Blogging – #scioStandards

Posted 21 February 2014 by Jalees Rehman

There will be so many interesting sessions at the upcoming ScienceOnline conference (February 27 – March 1, 2014 in Raleigh, NC - USA) that it is going to be difficult to choose which sessions to attend, because one will invariably miss out on concurrent sessions. If you are not too exhausted, please attend one of the last sessions of the conference: Upholding standards in scientific blogs (Session 10B, #scioStandards). I will be facilitating the discussion at this session, which will... Read more

Is It Possible To Have Excess Weight And Still Be Healthy?

Posted 14 February 2014 by Jalees Rehman

Is it possible to be overweight or obese and still be considered healthy? Most physicians advise their patients who are overweight or obese to lose weight because excess weight is a known risk factor for severe chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. However, in recent years, a controversy has arisen regarding the actual impact of increased weight on an individual’s life expectancy or risk of suffering from heart attacks. Some researchers argue that being overweight... Read more

Replicability of High-Impact Papers in Stem Cell Research

Posted 23 July 2013 by Jalees Rehman

I recently used the Web of Science database to generate a list of the most highly cited papers in stem cell research. As of July 2013, the search for original research articles which use the key word "stem cells" resulted in the following list of the ten most widely cited papers to date:   1. Pittenger M et al. (1999) Multilineage potential of adult human mesenchymal stem cells. Science 284(5411):143-147 Citations: 8,157   2.  Thomson JA et al. (1998) Embryonic... Read more

Blind Peers: A Path To Equality In Scientific Peer Review?

Posted 30 May 2013 by Jalees Rehman

There is a fundamental asymmetry that exists in contemporary peer review of scientific papers. Most scientific journals do not hide the identity of the authors of a submitted manuscript. The scientific reviewers, on the other hand, remain anonymous. Their identities are only known to the editors, who use the assessments of these scientific reviewers to help decide whether or not to accept a scientific manuscript. Even though the comments of the reviewers are usually passed along to the authors of... Read more

Critical Science Writing: A Checklist for the Life Sciences

Posted 21 May 2013 by Jalees Rehman

One major obstacle in the "infotainment versus critical science writing" debate is that there is no universal definition of what constitutes "critical analysis" in science writing. How can we decide whether or not critical science writing is adequately represented in contemporary science writing or science journalism, if we do not have a standardized method of assessing it? For this purpose, I would like to propose the following checklist of points that can be addressed in news articles or blog-posts which... Read more

‘Infotainment’ and Critical Science Journalism

Posted 19 May 2013 by Jalees Rehman

I recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Guardian in which I suggested that there is too much of an emphasis on ‘infotainment’ in contemporary science journalism and there is too little critical science journalism. The response to the article was unexpectedly strong, provoking some hostile comments on Twitter, and some of the most angry comments seem to indicate a misunderstanding of the core message. One of the themes that emerged in response to the article was the Us-vs.-Them perception... Read more

Transparency Is Not A One-Way Mirror

Posted 24 April 2013 by Jalees Rehman

An editorial in the journal Nature published on April 24, 2013 announces an important new step in the scientific peer review process for manuscripts that are being submitted to Nature and other Nature research journals. Authors of scientific manuscripts will now be required to fill out a checklist before they can submit their work to the journal. The title of the editorial, "Announcement: Reducing our irreproducibility", reveals the goal of this new step - addressing the problem of irreproducibility that... Read more

Are Scientists Divided Over Divining Rods?

Posted 25 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

When I read a statement which starts with "Scientists are divided over......", I expect to learn about a scientific controversy involving scientists who offer distinct interpretations or analyses of published scientific data. This is not uncommon in stem cell biology. For example, scientists disagree about the differentiation capacity of adult bone marrow stem cells. Some scientists are convinced that these adult stem cells have a broad differentiation capacity and that a significant proportion can turn into heart cells or brain... Read more