Previously I considered that media might ask experts what is known rather than their opinion.*
The fuss about the potential link between XMRV and CFS over the past few months has reminded me of the need for coverage to present what the current state of play is.
One of the more frustrating things for scientists to watch is media reports jumping in too soon,** reporting each new finding in an unresolved story as if it were the last word.
It portrays each research paper as definitive on their own. Research papers are in effect an argument for a case, a case that might potentially later prove wrong.
’Instant’ blow-by-blow accounts portray science as a progression of abrupt discoveries, rather than an accumulation of smaller pieces from many different sources that lead to larger conclusions over time. It is true that occasionally there are genuinely startling findings that fly in the face of most of what was known in an area, but these are rare; much more usual are additions to what is known.
Sometimes research findings are contradicted by later studies.