Headlines tell the story

June 16, 2013

I love the contrast in syntax and style between the title of the paper and the headline of the story:

Paper: Developmental Basis of Phallus Reduction during Bird Evolution, published 4 June 2013 in Current Biology.

Story: How Chickens Lost Their Penises (And Ducks Kept Theirs), published 6 June 2013 in Not Exactly Rocket Science.


Start me up

June 16, 2013

Mobius image by JoshDif (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Trying to figure out how to tell a science story sometimes is like jumping onto a giant mobius strip. It’s hard to figure out where to start. In a recent interview, Ben Goldacre put it nicely:

Anyway.. in science writing the structure is often a fun challenge, because if the ideas are new to your audience then you hit what coders call “dependency issues” around the ordering: you have to understand A, B and C to then understand X and Y, but understanding A also requires that you know a little bit about Y.

Poetry in Prime Numbers

July 29, 2012

One recent fall semester at Moses Brown, math teacher Jeffery Cruzan launched a math haiku contest. The rules were simple: Express your like, love, fear or loathing of math in a haiku.

A haiku is a three-line, free-verse poem with 5 moras (syllables) in the first and last lines, and seven in the second: 5 – 7 – 5 (Note: These are prime numbers).

Five in the first line
Seven in the second line
Five in the last line

Here are some samples:

A nice slice of pi
Sharing it with you would be
So irrational
–Jeff Cruzan

Kindergarten math
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7
uh oh I missed one
–Jeff Cruzan and Ellis Seul, age 5

When you’re five years old
Math can seem impossible
It gets easier
–Jeff Cruzan

Online news pioneers build audiences for science & health

March 1, 2012

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Journalist-bloggers write about sex, lies and conflicts of interest

March 14, 2011


Courtesy Maria Reyes-McDavis/Creative Commons License.

Why blog?

For some of the leading health and science journalist bloggers speaking at a January 2011 event hosted by the New England Science Writers, blogging is a way to satisfy many journalistic ambitions: Have an impact, engage influential audiences, break news, write more enterprising stories, achieve recognition, and draw attention to their other work.

The video is posted here (thanks to Dianne Finch and National Association of Science Writers). Summary and links follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Factoring in disclosure

February 20, 2010

Courtesy Expedient InfoMedia/Creative Commons License

In the mid-1980s, a young woman of my acquaintance who distrusted the results of the studies funded by companies with a financial interest in their results was concerned about the side effects of her birth control pills. She asked her gynecologist about the evidence for the risks and benefits.

Her doctor assured her. The modern contraception dosing was so low that the serious side effects associated with the early pill had become quite rare. Her doctor handed her copies of several recent large studies from major medical journals.

Each paper disclosed its funding source: a major pharmaceutical maker.

The woman could not judge the science, but she had closely followed the string of scandals beginning in the late 1970s and mid 1980s that prompted congressional hearings and began eroding public trust in academic-industry relationships. In almost every case, life science researchers with financial interests in the outcome engaged in flagrant misconduct and badly done studies. Read the rest of this entry »

Tell me about it

February 15, 2010

Courtesy Quapan/Creative Commons License.

To preserve trust in biomedical research findings, many journals require authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest.

Unfortunately, just about every journal—and institution and professional organization—has slightly different rules about what constitutes conflict of interest, said Christine Laine, editor of Annals of Internal Medicine. An author could disclose something for one journal and not for another and still be in compliance with the rules of both journals. Read the rest of this entry »

Yosemite bears prefer minivans

October 14, 2009

Courtesy Kevin Collins/Creative Commons License.

Inspired to visit Yosemite, perhaps after watching the Ken Burns film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea?

Don’t drive the minivan. Bad idea. The SUV also might be a little risky.

So say researchers who analyzed seven years of data on the vehicles broken into by black bears in Yosemite Valley.

Of nine categories of cars and trucks, minivans and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) vied for number one on the black bear break-in list every year from 2001 to 2007. Read the rest of this entry »