Ride or Die: The Importance Of the Whole Picture



First impressions are deceiving

Have you seen this gif? What do you think it shows? A bunch of monkeys escaping hunters by riding on wild hogs right?

What if I were to tell you that the monkeys were actually helping the hunters?

The monkeys are trained to ride the hogs to tire them out to make it easier for the hunters to net them.

Always Get The Whole Picture

How is this relevant to your life?

When it comes to making decisions, especially those related to health and finances, it is important to ask questions and clarify any doubts you have.

Do not decide to stop eating sugars just because the newspaper says it’s bad for you. Or go on a juice fast because “it worked great” for your colleague.

A 2018 study in PLOS One took a detailed look at the 50 most-shared academic journal articles linking any exposure with a health outcome, and media stories that covered those articles.

The study found that:

  • 34% of the academic studies used language that reviewers considered too strong given their strength of causal inference
  •  48% of media articles used stronger language than their associated academic articles
  • 58% of media articles inaccurately reported the question, results, intervention, or population of the academic study


Always question the science behind the headlines and anecdotal advice you receive. Solicit advice from experts, forums and service providers. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know anything about it.


Here are a couple of sites that will help:

Science-based Medicine

Science-Based Medicine is dedicated to evaluating medical treatments and products of interest to the public in a scientific light, and promoting the highest standards and traditions of science in health care.

All the contributors are medically trained, and their articles are evidence-based and include links to references. A great resource to dig into the science behind the headlines and to get credible insight into alternative medicine.

Link: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/

Health News Reviews

The mission of HealthNewsReview.org is to improve the public dialogue about health care by helping consumers critically analyze claims about health care interventions and by promoting the principles of shared decision-making reinforced by accurate, balanced and complete information about the tradeoffs involved in health care decisions. HealthNewsReview.org evaluates health care journalism, advertising, marketing, public relations and other messages that may influence consumers and provides criteria that consumers can use to evaluate these messages themselves. Improving the quality and flow of health care news and information to consumers can be a significant step towards meaningful health care reform.

The site provides insightful reviews of news releases as well as provide resources for journalists to better report on scientific discoveries. Be sure to check out their toolkit for tips on how to better understand research and studies.

Link: https://www.healthnewsreview.org/

Science Media Centre

To provide, for the benefit of the public and policymakers, accurate and evidence-based information about science and engineering through the media, particularly on controversial and headline news stories when most confusion and misinformation occurs.

The Science Media Centre is an independent press office that provides round-ups and reactions of experts to science new releases and summaries of what the paper in question claims. They also provide fact sheets summarizing new areas of emerging science.

Link: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org

NHS (UK) Behind The Headlines

The NHS Behind The Headlines website provides up to date analyses of the latest health news. The analyses undergo internal peer review and are read and approved by a senior clinician, ensuring that conclusions are medically safe.

Link: https://www.nhs.uk/news/

Research The Headlines

Research the Headlines addresses the way in which research is discussed and portrayed in the media. Each post will take recent media coverage of a piece of research as a starting point, and will allow readers to get to a better understanding of what was really done, and what it might mean for them, from an expert but independent position. The blog is intended to be of interest to those with and without any training in research.

The site contributors are a multidisciplinary group of individuals and are all current and former members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh‘s Young Academy of Scotland. The site also provides a section on “How To Research The Headlines”, which contains tips on how to evaluate the news article, check for biases and how to assess the risk reported.

Link: https://researchtheheadlines.org/

Updated: 31 Aug 2018


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