Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

How to make sense of articles in scientific journals

Have you ever come across a scientific article and it just seems too dense to read? And you want to share the information with your health care provider or a family member or friend?
Here’s some tips that just might help out!

From a Web page at the National Institutes of Health (A US government agency)

Know the Science: 9 Questions To Help You Make Sense of Health Research

Almost every day, new findings on medical research are published, some of which may include complementary health approaches.

Research studies about medical treatments and practices published in scientific journals are often the sources of news stories and can be important tools in helping you manage your health.

sight + document = understanding

But finding scientific journal articles, understanding the studies they describe, and interpreting the results can be challenging.

One way to make it easier to understand information you find in a scientific journal is to share the information with your health care providers and get their opinions. Once you understand the basics and terminology of scientific research, you have one more tool to help you make better, informed decisions about your health.

Here are 9 questions that can help you make sense of a scientific research article.

The article goes on to answer 9 questions, including

January 6, 2018 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] How Scientists Engage the Public

From the 15 February 2015 Pew Report

American scientists believe they face a challenging environment and the vast majority of them support the idea that participation in policy debates and engagement with citizens and journalists is necessary to further their work and careers.

A survey of 3,748 American-based scientists connected with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) finds that 87% agree with the statement “Scientists should take an active role in public policy debates about issues related to science and technology.”Just 13% of these scientists back the opposite statement: “Scientists should focus on establishing sound scientific facts and stay out of public policy debates.”

PI_2015-02-15_science-engagement_02

This widely held view among scientists about active engagement combines with scientists’ perspectives on the relationship between science and society today in several ways:

…..

February 17, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] The Many Positives in Negative Study Findings

 

Negative studies are just as important to consumers as positive studies. They are essential blocks in the evidence base. They help everyone—consumers and health care providers—avoid interventions that don’t help.

From the 9 December 2013 posting by Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., Director, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, authored by six researchers at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), prompts some thoughts about studies with negative outcomes—and their importance in the entire research process.

In this report Dr. David Gordon, Dr. Michael Lauer, and their colleagues analyzed the 244 extramural, randomized clinical trials supported by NHLBI and completed between the years 2000 and 2011. The primary outcome was the time between completion of trials and publication of the main results in a peer-reviewed journal; the secondary outcome was the annual citation rates for these articles—i.e., how many times each article was cited in a given time period. The team also examined a number of trial characteristics that related to these questions, such as budget, number of participants, and whether the result was positive or negative.

Among the many interesting findings are that more than half of the studies analyzed (58 percent) yielded negative results. And intriguingly, of the 31 trials having the highest citation rates, only 8 (26 percent) had positive results. Studies supported by NHLBI, and indeed, studies supported by NCCAM, generally start with enthusiasm of the investigators, peer reviewers, and NIH. They generally start with the expectation (and indeed preliminary data) that the intervention being studied has the potential to improve patient outcomes. By and large, when no benefit is demonstrated, research teams are understandably disappointed. And Gordon and co-authors found that investigators completing negative studies are indeed significantly slower to publish.

Nevertheless, we do the research because we don’t know the answer! Negative studies are just as important to consumers as positive studies. They are essential blocks in the evidence base. They help everyone—consumers and health care providers—avoid interventions that don’t help.

There is an additional “silver lining.” Negative studies are extremely important in the research process. And the high-quality data produced during our well-performed, carefully monitored studies are of enormous value in deciding on follow-on questions and in the design of subsequent studies.

We learn from surprises—from discovering that we don’t always know what we think we know.

Related Resources

 

 

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice

This grant caught my eye at least partly because I am now reading a rather dense biography on Robert Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer was the director of the  Manhattan Project, the program that developed the first nuclear weapon during World War II. However, he later became the chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission,which later opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb. And he went on to support international control of atomic energy.

The Manhattan project, and the larger government-scientific community failed to look at the long term consequences of developing atomic weapons.

So it is refreshing to see, hopefully not too late !, that our government is willing to see the long term consequences of science and technology through grants as this.

From the article at PLos One

Over the past two decades, policy changes at the national level have created an increased focus on science-society relations. An example in the United States has been a subtle but significant shift in the foundational principles of the National Science Foundation (NSF): rather than assume societal benefits directly flow from support of science and engineering, the NSF now explicitly seeks to create knowledge that benefits society [1][4]. To achieve this goal, the agency moved in 1997 to adopt the Broader Impacts Criterion (BIC) to review grant proposals [5],[6]. Similarly, the 2007 America COMPETES Act increased ethics education requirements for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows without specifying content[7][10]. While these policy changes require scientists and engineers to practice science and engineering in new ways that engage “the public” and benefit “society,” few institutions provide physical spaces for cross-disciplinary contact and intellectual space for figuring out how practically to achieve these ends [10][13].

SJTP is a graduate-level research and education program that trains science and engineering students alongside students of social science, arts, and humanities to respond to the ethical and social justice questions that arise in their research. Rather than treating justice as a concern to be tacked onto an already formed research project, SJTP graduate fellows are provided with fellowship funding and faculty mentorship that supports them to explore questions of ethics and justice as they arise in their research.

The space, funding, and institutional recognition of the program give fellows the opportunity to reorient their research questions, methodologies, and goals around questions of science and justice.

 

Some related bioethics resources

August 7, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[HealthNewsReview.Org Weekly Digest item] – Scientific Conference News Caveat

Those of you who read my posts regularly know one of my themes is to read scientific and medical news items carefully with an eye to interpreting them objectively. *

Here are some excerpts from the 12 November 2012 HealthNewsReview.org weekly update

…the cheerleaders of health care journalism often rush to publish news from scientific conferences that is not ready for prime time – at least not without caveats and context. So that explains our post this week:

An important reminder – for journalists and for the general public – appears in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.  The paper is entitled, “The Conversion of Cardiovascular Conference Abstracts to Publications,” and it is published right about the same time as the American Heart Association’s own huge Scientific Sessions wrapped up for 2012.   We wrote earlier about some of our concerns about news coverage from this meeting.

The new journal article provides sound reasons for why our concerns about conference news coverage are sound. The researchers analyzed abstracts presented at the American Heart Association (AHA), American College of Cardiology (ACC), and European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Scientific Sessions from 2006-2008. Then they checked how many were published.

Drum roll, please….

  • Less than one-third of the presented abstracts were published within two years of the conference presentation.
  • After five years, the rates rose a bit to 49.7% for AHA, 42.6% for ACC, and 37.6% for ESC .

So while some journalists are glued to coverage of these meetings, publishing daily for general news audiences that may not understand the nuances of the limitations of drawing conclusions from talks presented at scientific meetings, most of this stuff isn’t even published in the medical literature for at least 5 years – if ever!

Why does this matter?

Such news coverage creates a rose-colored view of progress in research.  It may not be inaccurate but it most certainly misleads and lacks important context if it doesn’t present caveats about the limitations.

Don’t forget the important JAMA paper, “Media Coverage of Scientific Meetings: Too Much, Too Soon?” which concluded:

“Results are frequently presented to the public as scientifically sound evidence rather than as preliminary findings with still uncertain validity. With some effort on the part of meeting organizers, journalists, and scientists, it will be possible to better serve the public.”..

Related articles at HealthNewsReview.org

November 13, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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