Boston University researchers reported last week that they'd discovered "genetic signatures" of longevity. Since then, they've met heavy criticism from peers concerned about the DNA chips that were used in the study. Newsweek published a comprehensive article on the disputed work Wednesday. Today, a Scientific American blog post puts some of the blame on the journal Science for accepting the paper:
Critics claim that these concerns could easily be dealt with by repeating the analysis using a single, new chip for all of the samples. This is something many feel should have been done before the study was published, and therefore raises questions about how the study was accepted for publication by Science, one of the world's top research journals, without it.
Readers of the Scientific American blog place the blame on both Science (which promotes itself as a gatekeeper to quality research) and mainstream journalists, whose love affair with the "wow factor" pressures academic journals to publish exciting research.
Researchers aren't immune from adding "wow-factor" to their articles, but it seems to me that the blame almost always lies with newspaper headline writers. Of course, if newspapers put high value on scientific accuracy, we wouldn't read about any journal articles until the breakthrough was at least several years old. With newspapers struggling for profitability, I'm not expecting the situation to improve anytime soon.