This web page was produced as an assignment for an undergraduate course at Davidson College.
Genomics in the Media
News Articles in the Popular Press
The popular press should convey the context, methodology, and often non-linear, frustrating process of research, while presenting the information in a way understandable to a lay reader (Kua et al., 2004). A proposal for a model science news article includes having a good translation of the research understandable by the public, noting “social and ethical implications” and significance of the research, and providing current scientific context, applications, and future avenues of research (Kua et al., 2004). However, news articles often cut too much out of the research process or past/future scientific context/background, and instead rely on sometimes vague,“isolated facts” to summarize the research significance (Kua et al., 2004).
Below are summaries and critiques of two news articles based off off the Burt 2009 study. Overall, the two articles were concise, but sometimes misleading in summarizing findings and main points for the more general public audience. Both articles are similar in their order and wording, but showed difference emphasis on some topics like the concept of evocative gene environment correlation. Both give minimal credit to past work of other researchers regarding the same topic. Both do not emphasize enough some of the uncertainties and caveats of the original study.
Click here to see the news article.
Popularity Gene Found?
By Daniel J. DeNoon WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
The article published in WebMD Health News unfortunetely begins and uses throughout the article the term “popularity gene,” which implies that a single gene is directly linked to popularity (DeNoon, 2008). The misnomer is clarified by stating that genes mediate specific behaviors, which mediate social status/popularity; however, the theory of evocative gene-environment correlation is not mentioned by name (DeNoon, 2008). A very brief description of 5HT2A cites one of Burt’s earlier studies to link certain types of 5HT2A to more popularity; however, no credit is given to the past efforts of other researchers as seen in the original journal article, nor is there enough context or knowledge regarding the ties between popularity, RB, and genetics (DeNoon, 2008). The article abruptly transitions to the associations found between popularity--adolescent RB and RB impulsivity--serotonin levels, which similarly leaves out acknowledgement of previous studies that have supported these associations (DeNoon, 2008). The paragraph on the methodology conveyed the main ideas in a few sentences, but leaves out many details like how RB was scored (DeNoon, 2008). The method description conveniently leads into the conclusion that the popularity gene is found in those with RB, and those with RB were more popular (DeNoon, 2008). For the sake of conciseness, uncertainties in genetic variations and other unknown mediators affecting popularity mentioned in the original journal article are left out; instead, the article emphasizes the uncomplicated linear path of the popularity gene--RB--popularity (DeNoon, 2008). One redeeming aspect of the article was that the conclusion mentions that further research will look beyond adolescent males and into what mediates female popularity, and what other aspects might mediate popularity in general (DeNoon, 2008).
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