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Reporting science and conflicts of interest in the lay press.

  • Author(s): Cook, Daniel M
  • Boyd, Elizabeth A
  • Grossmann, Claudia
  • Bero, Lisa A
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

Forthright reporting of financial ties and conflicts of interest of researchers is associated with public trust in and esteem for the scientific enterprise.

Methods/principal findings

We searched Lexis/Nexis Academic News for the top news stories in science published in 2004 and 2005. We conducted a content analysis of 1152 newspaper stories. Funders of the research were identified in 38% of stories, financial ties of the researchers were reported in 11% of stories, and 5% reported financial ties of sources quoted. Of 73 stories not reporting on financial ties, 27% had financial ties publicly disclosed in scholarly journals.

Conclusions/significance

Because science journalists often did not report conflict of interest information, adherence to gold-standard recommendations for science journalism was low. Journalists work under many different constraints, but nonetheless news reports of scientific research were incomplete, potentially eroding public trust in science.

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