Sunday, July 19, 2009

Miss representation.

Found a useful article on Reddit:

It's an anecdotal account of journalists willfully or ignorantl--but obviously, either way--misrepresenting academic research. In this case, the beginnings of a dissertation project on the behavior of intoxicated heterosexual men was reported under the title, "Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists." This was printed in spite of the facts that the study had no statistically significant data to support this quesiton, the lead researcher had made no such claim, and (in someways most significant for me) the research in question was the preliminary phase of an unpublished (read: not yet peer reviewed) dissertation project.


But there is a second, less obvious problem. Repeatedly, unpublished work – often of a highly speculative and eye-catching nature – is shepherded into newspapers by the press officers of the British Psychological Society, and other organisations. A rash of news coverage and popular speculation ensues, in a situation where nobody can read the academic work. I could only get to the reality of what was measured, and how, by personally tracking down and speaking to an MSc student about her dissertation on the phone. In any situation this would be ridiculous, but in a sensitive area such as rape it is blind, irresponsible, coverage-hungry foolishness.

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