Research in Progress
Scientists, press-officers, and journalists are motivated by overlapping and divergent interests. Scientists and universities face increasing pressure to achieve social impact, while reporters face ever higher workloads (see the vicious circle diagram below). This creates ever greater importance of packaged material such as press-releases, which must strike a difficult balance between exciting interest and maintaining scientific accuracy.
We are currently investigating the potential role of press releases in creating misleading reports of science in the press. We are focusing on biology and health related press releases from the 20 ‘Russell Group’ universities in the UK. We will discover to what extent press releases are the source of inaccuracies in news stories; whether certain phrases in press releases, while not strictly inaccurate, routinely mislead; and to what extent more accurate or cautious press releases suffer from lower press interest.