Disclosure Dr.

Allison has received funding from the National Institutes of Health for the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) which he heads. He holds several other NIH grants, including one of the Common Fund's NIH Director's Transformative Research Awards entitled "Energetics, Disparities, & Lifespan: A unified hypothesis". He has also received funding from the National Science Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State of Alabama, the American Diabetes Association, and numerous other government, notfor-profit, and for-profit organizations. Dr. Allison has consulted with numerous entities including the Federal Trade Commission, The Frontiers Foundation, the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Postal Inspectors Service, the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, and many other government, not-for-profit, and for-profit organizations. He frequently serves as a consultant, especially to the pharmaceutical industry, food and beverage industries, universities, and litigators.

Dr. Brown is supported by intramural funding from UAB and government funding from the National Institutes of Health. The University of Alabama at Birmingham has received unrestricted gifts and grants from numerous not-for-profit and for-profit organizations, including Coca-Cola, the sponsor of this webinar, and many other food, pharmaceutical, and other companies, some of which have supported Drs. Allison’s and Brown’s work. Drs. Allison and Brown do not advocate for or against any particular policies. Drs. Allison and Brown only advocate for science. They speak for themselves and their views do not necessarily represent those of UAB or any other organization. Drs. Allison and Brown had complete editorial control over the content of this presentation and developed it themselves.

Office of Energetics

David B. Allison, Ph.D.

Andrew W Brown, Ph.D. Tips for High-Fidelity Science Reporting

Considerations
• We will primarily focus on biomedical human studies (our expertise). • Our comments reflect what we think is important from two scientists’ points of view.


Our comments may reflect what we think science should be, not necessarily how it is.
We are not journalists, and we understand that journalists have other pressures and purposes in writing than just translating studies in a vacuum.

Outline
1. Science communication is important 2. Fundamental characteristics of science 3. Details from a study that help to evaluate the science 4. Putting research into perspective 5. Positive example 6. Final Thoughts 7. Resources

Interest in Science
Sources Used by Public for Information

SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING INDICATORS 2014, Chapter 7

What do people understand?

Correlation Caveats (% of mentions of correlation)

SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING INDICATORS 2014, Chapter 7

Reports of correlations are increasingly accompanied by reminders that correlation does not equal causation.

Headline vs Study
Headline Skipping breakfast to lose weight makes you fatter - and far more likely to raid the vending machine. Study Presentation at proceedings; MRI results and observations of how much subjects ate at lunch after skipping breakfast. No body weight, no vending machines. Headline US Farm Subsidy Policies Contribute To Worsening Obesity Trends, Study Finds. Paper There is no study – paper is an author‟s commentary/review on farm subsidies. Headline Drinking 5 cups of coffee everyday may lead to obesity: study. Headline Wrong amount of coffee could kill you. Study: A study of mice, involving a substance found in coffee, but no coffee, showed no significant weight gain, and reported no deaths.
For references, see: ObesityandEnergetics.org.

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” – Mark Twain

Outline
1. Science communication is important 2. Fundamental characteristics of science 3. Details from a study that help to evaluate the science 4. Putting research into perspective 5. Positive example 6. Final Thoughts 7. Resources

Fundamentals of Science
Falsifiability
Can the assertion be proven false?

Uncertainty
How confident are we in our conclusions?

Reproducibility
Can the phenomenon be replicated?

Skepticism
Are there alternative explanations?

Obesity Prevalence: Where do the data come from?

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

Le, A., et al. The geographic distribution of obesity in the US and the potential regional differences in misreporting of obesity. Obesity 2013.

Outline
1. Science communication is important 2. Fundamental characteristics of science 3. Details from a study that help to evaluate the science 4. Putting research into perspective 5. Positive example 6. Final Thoughts 7. Resources

Details from a study that help to evaluate science
Who was studied? How many were studied?
What is the exposure of interest? What exposure was actually studied? What is the outcome of interest? What was actually studied? What was the study design? How long was the study?

Who or what was studied?

:

Rodents: • Species • Sex • Strain (may be important to scientists, but probably not readers)

Humans: • Where from? • Sex? • Age? • Country? • Ancestry?

How many were studied?
Importance of Sample Size

Increasing Sample Size

Adapted from Brown et al. 2013 AJCN

Exposure of Interest vs Exposure Investigated
Exposure is the purported causal factor explaining an effect.
Exposure of Interest Measured Exposure Occupational heavy metal exposure Bioaccumulation in toe nails and hair

Dietary Intake Recollection of food consumption
Physical activity energy expenditure Distance and speed traveled Stress Cortisol

How much exposure did the sample experience?
• Top 10% vs bottom 10% of meat consumers • Animal dosed with 10x the expected amount a human would receive

Outcome of Interest vs Outcome Investigated
Measured Outcome Blood Cholesterol Cancer Antigen 125 Self-reported ancestry Cortisol Effect of Interest Cardiovascular Disease Ovarian Cancer Migration patterns of populations Stress

Can we adequately extrapolate from the measured outcome to the effect of interest?
Example: Measure single meal food intake to estimate changes in obesity prevalence

What is the study design?
Comprehensive Summary of Evidence

“Gold Standard”

Observational

No Comparison

Not Human

Not Evidence
Schwitzer 2010. Covering Medical Research: A Guide for Reporting on Studies

How long is the study?

www.daviddarling.info/images/life_span_of_animals.jpg

Shah et al 2006 JCEM Hydra – “Immortal”

How long is the study compared to the outcome of interest?

Outline
1. Science communication is important 2. Fundamental characteristics of science 3. Details from a study that help to evaluate the science 4. Putting research into perspective 5. Positive example 6. Final Thoughts 7. Resources

How do the results fit into what we know?
Winner’s curse vs Gratuitous Replication
“In the absence of replication efforts, one is left with unconfirmed (genuine) discoveries and unchallenged fallacies.” – John Ioannidis
“Why Science Is Not Necessarily Self-Correcting” Perspectives on Psychological Science 2012

If a scientist says he or she is the first to discover or demonstrate something you have heard of, it likely means: 1) Lots of conditions and caveats. 2) The scientist is wrong (less common).

Exaggeration

Headline: “Eating lots of meat and cheese in middle age is „as deadly as SMOKING‟”
Source: www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article2573088/Eating-lots-meat-cheese-middleage-deadly-SMOKING.html

Levine et al. Cell Metabolism 2014 Mar;19(3):407-17

The Human Element: For interest, not evidence
Science
Only three things matter:

Human Audiences
Interest matters:

1) The data
2) The methods used to generate the data 3) The logic connecting the data to conclusions All else is tangential

• We love stories
• We remember stories • We particularly like stories about other humans

Ad hominem arguments are not evidence

The human element is useful for embellishment and interest, not for scientific conclusions.

Ali Almossawi https://bookofbadarguments.com/

Parroting Professors or Press-releases
Spin: specific reporting strategies, intentional or unintentional, emphasizing the beneficial effect of the experimental treatment

Spin perpetuates throughout the reporting

Scientists and press releases don’t always get it right

Outline
1. Science communication is important 2. Fundamental characteristics of science 3. Details from a study that help to evaluate the science 4. Putting research into perspective 5. Positive example 6. Final Thoughts 7. Resources

Subheadings include:
Introduction

Where did the story come from? What kind of research was this? What did the research involve?

What were the basic results? How did the researchers interpret the results? Conclusion

Outline
1. Science communication is important 2. Fundamental characteristics of science 3. Details from a study that help to evaluate the science 4. Putting research into perspective 5. Positive example 6. Final Thoughts 7. Resources

Utility Analysis: Scientific Knowledge is a Necessary but Insufficient Basis for Logical Decision Making
Two Roulette Tables Table A Table B Probability of Black 0.6 0.4 Probability of Red 0.4 0.6

Black: You Win Red: I win

Utility Analysis: Scientific Knowledge is a Necessary but Insufficient Basis for Logical Decision Making
Two Roulette Tables Table A Table B Probability of Black 0.6 0.4 Probability of Red 0.4 0.6 Value of Black $100 $1,000 Value of Red -$1,000 -$100 Utility -$340 $340

Black: You Win Red: I win

Utility Analysis: Scientific Knowledge is a Necessary but Insufficient Basis for Logical Decision Making
Two Roulette Tables Table A Table B “Science can only Probability of Black 0.6 0.4 ascertain what is, but not Probability of Red 0.4 0.6 what should be, and Value of Black $100 $1,000 outside of its domain Value of Red -$1,000 -$100 value judgments of all Utility -$340 $340 kinds remain necessary.”
– Albert Einstein

Two Public Health Policies (clinical treatments, etc.) Action A Action B Probability of Desired Outcome 0.3 0.7 Probability of Undesired Outcome 0.7 0.3 Value of Desired Outcome Value of Undesired Outcome Utility ??? ???

Science
Values

Outline
1. Science communication is important 2. Fundamental characteristics of science 3. Details from a study that help to evaluate the science 4. Putting research into perspective 5. Good Examples 6. Positive example 7. Final Thoughts 8. Resources

Resources
http://nationalpress.org/ Latest obesity and energetics research: www.obesityandenergetics.com

https://bookofbadarguments.com/

http://www.nhs.uk/News/Pages/NewsIndex.aspx

www.senseaboutscience.org www.healthnewsreview.org

“…let

us take this path through the woods…”
~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Oak Mountain State Park, AL
Care of Michelle M Bohan Brown, PhD

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