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Why researchers need to communicate the story behind the science

Why researchers need to communicate the story behind the science

A post yesterday on Observations reinforces the importance of researchers pairing patient stories, testimonials and narratives about the scientific process with statistical data to foster public trust and bolster the case for evidence-based medicine.

The entry focuses on a recent essay (subscription required) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association outlining how physicians and scientists might incorporate narratives into the promotion of evidence-based health care information. Katherine Harmon writes:

“Each time, those who espouse only evidence–without narratives about real people – struggle to control the debate. Typically, they lose,” [the authors of the JAMA essay] observed. In the wake of recommendations for reduced breast and prostate cancer screenings from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, many cancer survivors and cancer advocacy groups jumped in to tell the stories of how early screening had saved lives.

Many scientists point out that these stories and stats can be misleading because overall survival also increases when more non-life-threatening cancers are detected–and misses the many potential downsides to untargeted screening. That’s where scientists can step up with stories of their own, such as that of the young woman who underwent a series of invasive and stressful biopsies only to reveal that a mass in her breast was not malignant–or the example of the middle aged man who was rendered incontinent after surgery to remove a prostate growth that was not likely to have killed him. Compelling stories could also help counter unwarranted fears about childhood vaccines, by telling the tale of one of the many unvaccinated children who got measles because parents were worried about the purported link to autism.

Previously: Veteran blogger offers tips for starting a science blog, Chris Mooney: Use science to identify effective science communicators and Payback time for NIH grant recipients?

3 Responses to “ Why researchers need to communicate the story behind the science ”

  1. Concerned Says:

    The “cat is out of the bag” in regards to the serious damage the bloated vaccine schedule is doing to our children. We don’t need more scare stories about measles. What we need is the public health community to break from the pharmacuitical industry and admit serious mistakes have been made. If they continue the status quo, the entire vaccine program risks collapse. Not to mention the credibility of the entire medical profession.

  2. Lia Steakley Says:

    The CDC, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics have approved the current vaccination schedule. If you are concerned about those schedules, we encourage you to review this FAQ from the CDC:

  3. Cindy Says:

    The CDC promotes, approves, reccomends, markets and distributes vaccines. The person who approved many of these vaccines (while the head of the CDC),Julie Gerberding, is now president of Merck’s vaccine division. Merck is the largest U.S. manufacturer of vaccines. The AAP recieves about 90% of their funding from vaccine manufacturers. They also are the trade group for pediatricians whose one purpose, and one purpose only, is to sell vaccines. Kids are now required to get 71 doses of 16 different vaccines. There is no safety study that has ever looked at more than one shot administered at a time.


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