Science, reporting and the new California report on autism and thimerosal

I’ve written in the past about the problem of bad science reporting in the US. The short version: very few American reporters have enough grounding in statistics and the sciences to accurately parse the claims of quantitative research, and as a result they often misrepresent what studies actually say.

This is an indictment of, among other things, university journalism school curricula, which ought to be requiring at some basic coursework in statistical analysis and scientific method. That prominent news agencies aren’t doing enough to remedy the failings of the J schools is obvious and distressing. Americans generally don’t understand stats and science any better than the average cub reporter, so bad reporting can actually do material damage in the lives of those who walk away from the newspaper or evening news with inaccurate conclusions.

A new report on autism rates and the preservative thimerosal has again put this problem in the national spotlight, (More…)

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