BAD Science or BAD Science Journalism? – A Response to Daniel Lakens

10 02 2013

ResearchBlogging.orgTwo weeks ago  there was a hot debate among Dutch Tweeps on “bad science, bad science journalism and bad science communication“. This debate was started and fueled by different Dutch blog posts on this topic.[1,4-6]

A controversial post, with both fierce proponents and fierce opposition was the post by Daniel Lakens [1], an assistant professor in Applied Cognitive Psychology.

I was among the opponents. Not because I don’t like a new fresh point of view, but because of a wrong reasoning and because Daniel continuously compares apples and oranges.

Since Twitter debates can’t go in-depth and lack structure and since I cannot comment to his Google sites blog, I pursue my discussion here.

The title of Daniels post is (freely translated, like the rest of his post):

Is this what one calls good science?” 

In his post he criticizes a Dutch science journalist, Hans van Maanen, and specifically his recent column [2], where Hans discusses a paper published in Pediatrics [3].

This longitudinal study tested the Music Marker theory among 309 Dutch kids. The researchers gathered information about the kids’ favorite types of music and tracked incidents of “minor delinquency”, such as shoplifting or vandalism, from the time they were 12 until they reached age 16 [4]. The researchers conclude that liking music that goes against the mainstream (rock, heavy metal, gothic, punk, African American music, and electronic dance music) at age 12 is a strong predictor of future minor delinquency at 16, in contrast to chart pop, classic music, jazz.

The University press office send out a press release [5 ], which was picked up by news media [4,6] and one of the Dutch authors of this study,  Loes Keijsers,  tweeted enthusiastically: “Want to know whether a 16 year old adult will suffer from delinquency, than look at his music taste at age 12!”

According to Hans, Loes could have easily broadcasted (more) balanced tweets, likeMusic preference doesn’t predict shoplifting” or “12 year olds who like Bach keep quiet about shoplifting when 16.” But even then, Hans argues, the tweets wouldn’t have been scientifically underpinned either.

In column style Hans explains why he thinks that the study isn’t methodologically strong: no absolute numbers are given; 7 out of 11 (!) music styles are positively associated with delinquency, but these correlations are not impressive: the strongest predictor (Gothic music preference) can explain no more than 9%  of the variance in delinquent behaviour, which can include anything from shoplifting, vandalism, fighting, graffiti spraying, switching price tags.  Furthermore the risks of later “delinquent” behavior are small:  on a scale 1 (never) to 4 (4 times or more) the mean risk was 1,12. Hans also wonders whether it is a good idea to monitor kids with a certain music taste.

Thus Hans concludesthis study isn’t good science”. Daniel, however, concludes that Hans’ writing is not good science journalism.

First Daniel recalls he and other PhD’s took a course on how to peer review scientific papers. On basis of their peer review of a (published) article 90% of the students decided to reject it. The two main lessons learned by Daniel were:

  • It is easy to critize a scientific paper and grind it down. No single contribution to science (no single article) is perfect.
  • New scientific insights, although imperfect, are worth sharing, because they help to evolve science. *¹

According to Daniel science jounalists often make the same mistakes as the peer reviewing PhD-students: critisizing the individuel studies without a “meta-view” on science.

Peer review and journalism however are different things (apples and oranges if you like).

Peer review (with all its imperfections) serves to filter, check and to improve the quality of individual scientific papers (usually) before they are published  [10]. My papers that passed peer review, were generally accepted. Of course there were the negative reviewers, often  the ignorant ones, and the naggers, but many reviewers had critique that helped to improve my paper, sometimes substantially. As a peer reviewer myself I only try to separate the wheat from the chaff and to enhance the quality of the papers that pass.

Science journalism also has a filter function: it filters already peer reviewed scientific papers* for its readership, “the public” by selecting novel relevant science and translating the scientific, jargon-laded language, into language readers can understand and appreciate. Of course science journalists should put the publication into perspective (call it “meta”).

Surely the PhD-students finger exercise resembles the normal peer review process as much as peer review resembles science journalism.

I understand that pure nitpicking seldom serves a goal, but this rarely occurs in science journalism. The opposite, however, is commonplace.

Daniel disapproves Hans van Maanen’s criticism, because Hans isn’t “meta” enough. Daniel: “Arguing whether an effect size is small or mediocre is nonsense, because no individual study gives a good estimate of the effect size. You need to do more research and combine the results in a meta-analysis”.

Apples and oranges again.

Being “meta” has little to do with meta-analysis. Being meta is … uh … pretty meta. You could think of it as seeing beyond (meta) the findings of one single study*.

A meta-analysis, however, is a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent, but comparable (homogeneous) studies in order to more powerfully estimate the true effect size (pretty exact). This is an important, but difficult methodological task for a scientist, not a journalist. If a meta-analysis on the topic exist, journalists should take this into account, of course (and so should the researchers). If not, they should put the single study in broader perspective (what does the study add to existing knowledge?) and show why this single study is or is not well done?

Daniel takes this further by stating that “One study is no study” and that journalists who simply echo the press releases of a study ànd journalists who just amply criticizes only single publication (like Hans) are clueless about science.

Apples and oranges! How can one lump science communicators (“media releases”), echoing journalists (“the media”) and critical journalists together?

I see more value in a critical analysis than a blind rejoicing of hot air. As long as the criticism guides the reader to appreciate the study.

And if there is just one single novel study, that seems important enough to get media attention, shouldn’t we judge the research on its own merits?

Then Daniel asks himself: “If I do criticize those journalists, shouldn’t I criticize those scientists who published just a single study and wrote a press release about it? “

His conclusion? “No”.

Daniel explains: science never provides absolute certainty, at the most the evidence is strong enough to state what is likely true. This can only be achieved by a lot of research by different investigators. 

Therefore you should believe in your ideas and encourage other scientists to pursue your findings. It doesn’t help when you say that music preference doesn’t predict shoplifting. It does help when you use the media to draw attention to your research. Many researchers are now aware of the “Music Marker Theory”. Thus the press release had its desired effect. By expressing a firm belief in their conclusions, they encourage other scientists to spend their sparse time on this topic. These scientists will try to repeat and falsify the study, an essential step in Cumulative Science. At a time when science is under pressure, scientists shouldn’t stop writing enthusiastic press releases or tweets. 

The latter paragraph is sheer nonsense!

Critical analysis of one study by a journalist isn’t what undermines the  public confidence in science. Rather it’s the media circus, that blows the implications of scientific findings out of proportion.

As exemplified by the hilarious PhD Comic below research results are propagated by PR (science communication), picked up by media, broadcasted, spread via the internet. At the end of the cycle conclusions are reached, that are not backed up by (sufficient) evidence.

PhD Comics – The news Cycle

Daniel is right about some things. First one study is indeed no study, in the sense that concepts are continuously tested and corrected: falsification is a central property of science (Popper). He is also right that science doesn’t offer absolute certainty (an aspect that is often not understood by the public). And yes, researchers should believe in their findings and encourage other scientists to check and repeat their experiments.

Though not primarily via the media. But via the normal scientific route. Good scientists will keep track of new findings in their field anyway. Suppose that only findings that are trumpeted in the media would be pursued by other scientists?

7-2-2013 23-26-31 media & science

And authors shouldn’t make overstatements. They shouldn’t raise expectations to a level which cannot be met. The Dutch study only shows weak associations. It simply isn’t true that the Dutch study allows us to “predict” at an individual level if a 12 year old will “act out” at 16.

This doesn’t help lay-people to understand the findings and to appreciate science.

The idea that media should just serve to spotlight a paper, seems objectionable to me.

Going back to the meta-level: what about the role of science communicators, media, science journalists and researchers?

According to Maarten Keulemans, journalist, we should just get rid of all science communicators as a layer between scientists and journalists [7]. But Michel van Baal [9] and Roy Meijer[8] have a point when they say that  journalists do a lot PR-ing too and they should do better than to rehash news releases.*²

Now what about Daniel criticism of van Maanen? In my opinion, van Maanen is one of those rare critical journalists who serve as an antidote against uncritical media diarrhea (see Fig above). Comparable to another lone voice in the media: Ben Goldacre. It didn’t surprise me that Daniel didn’t approve of him (and his book Bad Science) either [11]. 

Does this mean that I find Hans van Maanen a terrific science journalist? No, not really. I often agree with him (i.e. see this post [12]). He is one of those rare journalists who has real expertise in research methodology . However, his columns don’t seem to be written for a large audience: they seem too complex for most lay people. One thing I learned during a scientific journalism course, is that one should explain all jargon to one’s audience.

Personally I find this critical Dutch blog post[13] about the Music Marker Theory far more balanced. After a clear description of the study, Linda Duits concludes that the results of the study are pretty obvious, but that the the mini-hype surrounding this research is caused by the positive tone of the press release. She stresses that prediction is not predetermination and that the musical genres are not important: hiphop doesn’t lead to criminal activity and metal not to vandalism.

And this critical piece in Jezebel [14],  reaches far more people by talking in plain, colourful language, hilarious at times.

It also a swell title: “Delinquents Have the Best Taste in Music”. Now that is an apt conclusion!

———————-

*¹ Since Daniel doesn’t refer to  open (trial) data access nor the fact that peer review may , I ignore these aspects for the sake of the discussion.

*² Coincidence? Keulemans has covered  the music marker study quite uncritically (positive).

Photo Credits

http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1174

References

  1. Daniel Lakens: Is dit nou goede Wetenschap? - Jan 24, 2013 (sites.google.com/site/lakens2/blog)
  2. Hans van Maanen: De smaak van boefjes in de dop,De Volkskrant, Jan 12, 2013 (vanmaanen.org/hans/columns/)
  3. ter Bogt, T., Keijsers, L., & Meeus, W. (2013). Early Adolescent Music Preferences and Minor Delinquency PEDIATRICS DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-0708
  4. Lindsay Abrams: Kids Who Like ‘Unconventional Music’ More Likely to Become Delinquent, the Atlantic, Jan 18, 2013
  5. Muziekvoorkeur belangrijke voorspeller voor kleine criminaliteit. Jan 8, 2013 (pers.uu.nl)
  6. Maarten Keulemans: Muziek is goede graadmeter voor puberaal wangedrag - De Volkskrant, 12 januari 2013  (volkskrant.nl)
  7. Maarten Keulemans: Als we nou eens alle wetenschapscommunicatie afschaffen? – Jan 23, 2013 (denieuwereporter.nl)
  8. Roy Meijer: Wetenschapscommunicatie afschaffen, en dan? – Jan 24, 2013 (denieuwereporter.nl)
  9. Michel van Baal. Wetenschapsjournalisten doen ook aan PR – Jan 25, 2013 ((denieuwereporter.nl)
  10. What peer review means for science (guardian.co.uk)
  11. Daniel Lakens. Waarom raadde Maarten Keulemans me Bad Science van Goldacre aan? Oct 25, 2012
  12. Why Publishing in the NEJM is not the Best Guarantee that Something is True: a Response to Katan - Sept 27, 2012 (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  13. Linda Duits: Debunk: worden pubers crimineel van muziek? (dieponderzoek.nl)
  14. Lindy west: Science: “Delinquents Have the Best Taste in Music” (jezebel.com)




Martin Bril: the Author, his Death and his Cancer

23 05 2009

Martin BrilMartin Bril is dead.

No “news“, it happened a month ago: April 22.

Martin Bril was a well known Dutch writer, poet and columnist – and the man who invented “skirt day”.

He loved live -and love- in all it’s simplicity. He needed few words to describe the essence of things or as he would say: “The surface is deep enough”. But you know, it is looking at one drop of water and understanding the ocean.

Other expressions: “Good is better than bad” and “You’ve people that bang the guitar really hard for hours, but I rather hear J.J. Cale. Always finished within 4 minutes, but the music stays with you.”

I liked his stories/columns most of the time, they often made me smile.

It is always sad when somebody dies young (Martin was 49), whether a “celebrity” or not. Especially when he leaves two young children and a wife.

I didn’t expect it and it really hit me. Why? I knew he had had cancer, but I thought it had gone. So did he a few years ago. I found a video-interview with him in 2007, where he said: “soon I will be declared “cured” – but then you will see it will return the other day.” In another interview I read: You never beat cancer”, that’s Lance Armstrong-language. Cancer goes away or it stays. It often stays.

I always thought he had colon cancer, but it was esophageal cancer. That’s the trouble with Dutch:Martin Bril Donkere Dagen

  • esophagus = slokdarm,
  • jejunum, ileum = dunne darm
  • colon = dikke darm.

Notice they all have “darm” in them. Mostly colon cancer is called “darmkanker” (or “dikke darmkanker”), and because esophagus is called slokdarm, slokdarmkanker is mistaken for darmkanker, which is quite another disease with other prospects.

Stupid, journalists keep on using the wrong name. Not that it matters a lot now, but still.

More “incorrect” was the fact that I first saw the announcement of his death in a newsletter from dokterdokter.nl (below). It is an online medical information site for patients. I have been getting their newsletter for years now, because -for one thing or another- I’m unsuccessful in unsubscribing to it. Dokterdokter.nl is typically a website that gives very general information, mostly leading to the advise “to check your doctor first”.

dokterdokter Martin Bril geheel

What struck me (besides the fact that I was taken by his death) was that his death was presented as Medical News, next to an enormous “oral sex” headline and the headline “what happens if you die?”. As if it was a tabloid. The message (he died the day before):

Martin Bril finally succumbed to esophageal cancer at the age of 49. Esophageal cancer has a bad prognosis. Why?
(if you click: )

“Martin Bril, the well known author …, died of esophageal cancer at the age of 49. He was a real hedonist. Cigarettes and alcohol were part of his life. Many years he had fought cancer, but Wednesday April 22 he lost his fight. Few people really completely recover from this illness.”

(….) Generally, the disease has to do with your lifestyle. In Western Countries, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are the most important causes of esophageal cancer.

And then it continues summarizing the brochure of the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF- kankerbestrijding)

Whereas most medical sites (including the Dutch Cancer Society, from which all the information was taken) just neutrally say that the cause is unknown, but that alcohol and smoking are known risk factors for esophageal cancer, -and even more so in combination- dokterdokter puts a direct link between Martin’s lifestyle and his death, as if it was his own fault. Maybe it was, but at that moment I didn’t want to know. It didn’t matter. I found it disrespectful, tasteless. I’m quite interested in health and medicine and mechanisms, but the reason of his death -at this moment- was less important than his death itself.

As a matter of fact, Martin stopped using liquor and cocaine in 1997 after given an ultimatum by his wife (“you have two young kids!”) and after attending a trial of a drug baron (Johan V., de Hakkelaar) (to write about). He also wanted to quit smoking. I don’t know whether he succeeded, but he helped STIVORO (“for a smokeless future”) with their campaign (2002) by writing a beautiful column and making a video about (the difficulty of) quitting smoking. “I stopped smoking, because I didn’t like it anymore. Moreover, my kids didn’t want me to die because of smoking……..”

How much better was the reaction of STIVORO to the death of Martin, saying “we have lost a talented author” and thanking him for his input. Just a short notice and ending with the column Martin had written for them: “Did you ever tried to quit smoking?…I did”.

——————73554771_f75ce49f1a rokjesdag

Bij Nederlanders hoef ik Martin Bril nauwelijks te introduceren. Dat ik hier over hem schrijf heeft vooral te maken met het stukje dat ik in de nieuwsbrief van Dokterdokter.nl las. In feite was het dit bericht, waardoor ik wist dat hij gestorven was. Voor mij een schok. Ik lees de Volkskrant niet meer, dus het was mij ontgaan dat het slecht met hem ging. Het is ook een jonge vent, jonger dan ik, met twee dochters, net als ik. Zo kom het altijd nog een beetje dichterbij. En hij kon mooi schrijven. “De oppervlakte was diep genoeg,” zo zei hij, maar het was bij hem net of je in een druppel de hele oceaan kon zien.

Voor het eerst zag ik trouwens dat hij slokdarmkanker had. De meeste journalisten spraken van darmdanker, waar men in de regel toch dikkedarmkanker mee bedoelt. Slokdarmkanker is een heel andere ziekte, met een heel andere prognose. Vreemd dat het meerendeel van de journalisten het toch steeds over darmkanker heeft

Maar dit terzijde. Ik vond het vreemd, dat het bericht als een “nieuwsaankondiging” stond naast de kop “orale sex” en “hoe voelt het als je dood gaat”. Misschien had Martin er wel om kunnen lachen, maar ik vond het bizar. Het verhaal zelf vond ik ook nogal ongepast.

Wat stond er?

De ziekte slokdarmkanker werd schrijver Martin Bril op zijn 49e fataal. Het is een ziekte met slechte vooruitzichten, mede omdat het vaak laat wordt ontdekt.

“Schrijver Martin Bril, bekend van boeken als De kleine keizer en Arbeidsvitaminen en van zijn columns in de Volkskrant, is op 49-jarige leeftijd aan slokdarmkanker overleden. Hij was een echte levensgenieter, sigaretten en alcohol waren een vast onderdeel van zijn leven. Al vele jaren streed hij tegen kanker, maar woensdag 22 april was zijn strijd gestreden. Maar weinig mensen weten volledig te herstellen van deze ziekte.”De ziekte heeft meestal te maken met de leefstijl van mensen. Roken en overmatig alcoholgebruik zijn in Westerse landen de belangrijkste oorzaken voor het ontstaan van slokdarmkanker.

Andere bronnen -ook de KWF-brochure, waar dit stuk aan ontleend is, schrijven steevast dat de oorzaak niet bekend is, maar dat roken en alcohol (vooral in combinatie) de belangrijke risicofactoren zijn. Mogelijk is zijn leefwijze inderdaad de belangrijkste reden geweest dat hij slokdarmkanker heeft gekregen. Nou en? Is het nodig om dit zo op te schrijven? Een dag na zijn dood? Ik vond het nogal oneerbiedig. Misschien dacht men bij dokterdokter.nl dat het schrikeffect mensen zou weerhouden om veel te roken en te drinken, want “kijk, daar krijg je slokdarmkanker van!!” Behalve dat dokterdokter niet bepaald het juiste publiek (de “zelfkanters” en “hedonisten”) zal bereiken, zal zo’n actie sowieso weinig zoden aan de dijk zetten. Dan was Martin’s bijdrage aan de Stivoro campagne “stoppen met roken” (2002/2003) waarschijnlijk veel effectiever. Hij schreef een column voor ze en werkte mee aan een video.

Martin zei: “Ik stopte met roken omdat ik er geen zin meer in had. Bovendien; mijn kinderen vonden dat ik er niet dood aan moest gaan”. Eerder, na een ultimatum van zijn vrouw en het bijwonen van een zitting tegen de drugsbaron de Hakkelaar, was hij al gestopt met alcohol en coke.

Zo anders was ook de reactie van Stivoro. Niets vingertje wijzen: “zie je wel!”, maar dit:

“Samen met de rest van Nederland treurt STIVORO om het heengaan van een bijzonder mens en groot schrijver: Martin Bril

STIVORO heeft Martin leren kennen toen hij zich enthousiast inzette voor onze ‘Stoppen met roken’ campagne van 2002/2003. Hij was toen bereid zijn persoonlijkheid en zijn schrijftalent voor deze campagne in te zetten.

Wij zijn dankbaar dat we met hem hebben mogen samenwerken. We wensen zijn familie en andere dierbaren heel veel sterkte toe.

Hij schreef voor ons de volgende column:

“Bent u wel eens gestopt met roken?
Ik wel……..”

Photo Credit (CC):





Twitter goes Viral: Swine Flu Outbreak – Twitter a Dangerous Hype?

30 04 2009

twitter-network-and-virusTwitter has been praised for its actuality and news breaking character. Remember the earthquakes and the two recent airplane crashes (Hudson River, Schiphol). Twitter often was the first to bring the news.

Twitter’s power lies in its simplicity, -the 140 character limit-, its speed and it’s domino-effect. Tweets (twitter messages) can be read by your followers (I have appr. 650). If they find something important, funny or whatever they could “RT” or Retweet (i.e. resend) the message, and their friends could retweet it as well. Via these secondary networks Twitter can go viral (in its replication and spread).

Below a friends of a friend network of a well known twitter personality Robert Scobleizer, as obtained by Twitterfriends. Only the “relevant network” is shown, directed to someone in particular: tweets beginning with @ (followed by the twitter name of your friend). The actual reach of tweets not starting with @ is greater, because they can be read by all followers.

3136982396_58537a66fb-foaf

Apart from following specific tweople one can also search for certain words or (hash)tags via Twitter Search or #hashtags.

Pushed by celebrities, such as Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey, who recently joined Twitter. Twitter’s traffic was poised to double and the number of tweeting people has steeply increased.

Twitter has been glorified by the stars. They created a real (meaningless) twitter mania.

But what raises high, can drop low.

Several sources dethroned Twitter because of it’s viral role in the recent swine flu outbreak. One of the first and most serious critiques came from a blog (Foreign Policy: Net Effect). It’s title: Twine flu: Twitter’s power to misinform.swine-flu-totThis is a serious allegation. Evgeny Morozov‘s main critiques:

  1. The “swine flu” meme has led to misinformation, fear and panic. Wrong info includes: fear that it “could be germ warfare” or “that one should not eat pork and certainly not from Mexico”.

  2. Unlike a simple Google search Twitter gives too much noise (irrelevant or wrong information).

  3. Messages from trustworthy sources have as much weight as those from uninformed people.

  4. There is very little context you can fit into 140 characters, even less so if all you are doing is watching a stream.

  5. Evgeny also worries about a future misuse of Twitter by cyber-terrorists shaping conversations on serious topics. A number of corporations are already monitoring and partially shaping twitter conversations about particular brands or products.

In addition some posts highlight that most of the Tweets belong to the category “witty or not so witty”. (also see this post)
And after these comments many similar comments were to follow: In fact these comments and critiques were going viral as well: take a look at this Google Search for Twitter Swine Flu and note the negative sound of most of the headlines.
The CNN website quotes Brennon Slattery, a writer for PC World,

“This is a good example of why [Twitter is] headed in that wrong direction, because it’s just propagating fear amongst people as opposed to seeking actual solutions or key information (..). The swine flu thing came really at the crux of a media revolution.”

Is Twitter just a hype and useless as an information source? Is it dangerous when a wide number of people would turn to Twitter in search of information during an emergency? Or have people just found a stick to beat the dog?

I will go to several aspects of the twitter flu coverage as I have encountered it.

Number of tweets

Indeed, as brought forward by Mashable, Tweets about “Swine Flu” are *now* at 10,000 per hour!!

Yesterday, 5 out of 10 twitter buzzwords were connected to Swine Flu:

  • # · Swine Flu
  • # · swineflu
  • # · Mexico
  • # · H1N1
  • # · Pandemic

Searching for information on Twitter
You can imagine that it is hardly useful to keep track of tweets mentioning *swine flu*, nor is searching for these buzzwords or hastags useful, if not combined with other terms or names, like CDC or laikas (just to find what you tweeted yourself).
I keep track of certain words via Tweetdeck in separate columns, accepting a certain “noise”, knowing this will only yield 20-50 tweets per day. It would not come to my mind to just blindly search for swineflu on Twitter.

The official media
It is said that Twitter doesn’t give useful or correct information, and indeed it hasn’t been designed for that (being merely a social Network). In its primitive form it is just online gossip or as The Register (UK) puts it- “it is not a media outlet. But odd enough, the official media did not behave differently. Cable television programmers went into crisis mode and a look at newspaper front pages and website home pages around the world showed a range of responses, from the almost hysterical to the concerned and more measured (Reuter’s Blog).

Look at this message from AJ Cann, that I retweeted :

laikas: RT @AJCann Totally irresponsible #swineflu journalism in the Dail Mail http://tinyurl.com/cms3km (expand) >>and they say twitter evokes global panic!
Is there really no reason to be worried?
Let’s face it. We don’t know an awful lot about this new virus strain. While it is true that the common flue has killed 13,000 people in the US since in a rather unnoticed way, and while there are relatively few swine flu casualties yet, one never knows how this new H1N1 epidemic will evolve. It might just fade away or it could kill millions of people. We just don’t know. It is a new, deadly virus. Not for nothing (as I learn from Twitter), the WHO has just raised the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5. But this is only meant to be prepared and to inform, not to cause panic.
who-message
AJCann (on twitter)Ben, a doctor writing for the Guardian, excelling in critically informing the public about science (and quack) and a real valibrity, was invited all over by the media to be a naysayer on the “aporkalypse”.
How to deal with Twitter Noise?
Suppose you would listen to all radio channels at once: that would be an unbearable noise. Usually you choose a channel, your favorite one, and just listen what comes next. But you may switch to another channel anytime. And for news you might just go to a specific channel that you know is the most informative.
It is exactly the same with Twitter. I don’t follow everyone. Since I use Twitter mostly for my work (medicine, library, science, web 2.0) and not primarily for a chat or wit, I choose the tweople I follow carefully. If they produce too much noise I might unfollow them. They are my human filter to the news.

6a00d8341bfa9853ef0105368fcb5e970c-400wi-darmano

Furthermore among the ones I follow are News or Health Sources, like @CNN Health, sanjayguptaCNN, @BBC Health, @BreakingNews, @health and recently (because of retweets of friends): @WHOnews , @CDCemergency, Reuters_FluNews, Fluheadlines.

@BreakingNews and @health mentioning real casualties and the WHO calling an emergency meeting, I realized the seriousness of the problem. I was also pointed to @WHOnews and @CDCemergency, the most trustworthy sources to follow.
I also understood that the swine flu might be difficult to contain.

laikas: RT @BreakingNews: BULLETIN — WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION CALLS EMERGENCY MEETING TO DISCUSS DEADLY SWINE FLU OUTBREAKS IN MEXICO AND THE U.S.

laikas: RT @health WHO, CDC concerned about possible epidemic following reports of 60+ people killed by new flu strain in Mexico http://bit.ly/d3JsO
laikas: RT @TEDchris: Swine flu outbreak. This is how it was SUPPOSED to have been contained. http://is.gd/us6r Worrying. >> WHO protocol
laikas: RT @BreakingNews: Reports of flu outbreak in New Zealand. 22 students may have been infected after a trip to Mexico. BNO trying to confirm. 3:25 AM Apr 26th from TweetDeck

laikas: RT @dreamingspires: RT @AllergyNotes Map of H1N1 Swine Flu of 2009 http://bit.ly/P2mcc (expand) 4:41 AM Apr 26th from TweetDeck

laikas: Map of H1N1 Swine Flu of 2009 http://bit.ly/P2mcc _ New Zealand added to the map. 4:42 AM Apr 26th from TweetDeck


Direct Link to H1N1 Swine Flu Google Map:

Somewhat later came the informative phase. Long before the official media were giving any useful information, some of my twitterfriends alerted me to their own or other (official) news.

@ajcann already wrote a post on his blog Microbiology Bytes (a blog with the latest news on microbiology) :10 things you should know about swine flu. (April 25th)

laikas: Reading @sciencebase Swine Flu http://bit.ly/y5Xqz 7:47 AM Apr 26th from web

laikas: RT @sanjayguptaCNN: I’ll answer your swine flu Q’s LIVE on CNN at 7:30a ET. call 1-800-807-2620. thanks 4he gr8 tweet Q so far.

laikas: RT @consultdoc: Great swine flu summary via @ubiquity http://bit.ly/DK0xV (expand) Thanks Greg.1:18 PM Apr 26th from TweetDeck

laikas: RT @BreakingNews: The WHO is holding a news conference on swine flu. Michael van Poppel is covering it live @mpoppel.
laikas: RT @stejules: RT @mashable HOW TO: Track Swine Flu Online http://tinyurl.com/dh68n8 (expand) (via @tweetmeme) (

At that point I became saturated with all information. I just follow the main news and read some good overviews

end-tweet-flu
Conclusion
For me, Twitter was the first and most accurate news source to get informed and updated on the swine flu pandemics. It was reliable, because “my friends” filtered the news for me and because I follow some trustworthy sources and news sites. Indirectly other tweople also pointed me at good and actual information.
And in my turn I kept my followers informed. The news has alarmed me, but I’m not in panic or frightened. I just feel informed and at the moment I can do nothing more than “wait and see”.

It has often been said: Twitter is what you make of it.
But keep in mind the golden rule:

Information on Swine Flu

News and Blogs

Photo Credits:

* wonderful those different names.





MLA 2008 – Poster Session I – Tour

22 05 2008

A singing and swinging start of the MLA-2008.

Take a tour of the 5/18/2008 poster session……

See many interesting posters, subjects, people … at a glance.

Tastes like more…. Hawaii, next year?

more about “MLA 2008 – Poster Session I – Tour“, posted with vodpod

Video made by one of the official MLA bloggers, David Rothman (http://davidrothman.net/)

Directly posted to my blog via Vodpod, a new button I installed last night (hope it works, if not, try the original video on David Rothman’s blog-post or on vimeo.








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