In a piece at Reason.com on "The Sorry State of Food-Related Public-Health Research and Journalism", Baylen Linnekin takes issue with the way the media reports on research in food and health science.
I was reading along when I was surprised (and pleased) to see this bit:
In spite of the current crop of mediocre research and reporting, there are a few bright counterweights.
Take Professor Jayson Lusk of Oklahoma State University, who I interviewed for Reason earlier this year.
Lusk had just published a study in the journal Food Policy, "The Political Ideology of Food," in which he concluded that the great majority of Americans support increasing the extent to which food is regulated.
Lusk, whose forthcoming book is The Food Police: A Well Fed Manifesto about the Politics of Your Plate, admitted he found his results “a bit disheartening” but published them anyways.
Me? I hate the results (and challenged him on his data in my interview).
But I love the fact Lusk displayed the intellectual honesty and courage to publish research that doesn’t simply reflect his own values and wishes.
For this alone, Lusk deserves a medal. But he’s on a very short list.
I don't know that I deserve medal, but I'm happy someone said so. It is easy to selective pursue research or selectively report results that only conform to your prior world view, especially when there are incentives from media, businesses and granting agencies to do so. All scientists face these pressures (even if it simply to protect their reputation and prior findings and statements).
I think a lot of the trouble comes in separating "what the data shows" from "this is what the results mean." The media is often much more interested in the second issue, but more often than not, there are many competing meanings that fit the data. But that doesn't make for compelling journalism that sells papers by creating a one-sided story that fits a headline.