Science and medical writing

Entries here will be more helpful for "science writers" (which is what I would call those of us writing about science for the general reader) than for "scientific writers" (scientists writing for each other).
For more on technical writing, check out Corporate and technical communications.
For examples and explanations of better ways to tell a science story, check out Adding images, sound, story, humor, animation

[Back to Top]

Organizations for Medical and Science Writers

Alliance for Health Reform provides excellent Web resources and will help you find experts to interview. See in particular Covering Health Issues: A Sourcebook for Journalists .
American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM), geared to academics, though physicians also get CME credits for attending annual conference. Offers a Supercourse (a global repository of lectures on public health and preventive health care, on epidemiology and global health. Supercourse described here.
••• American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) promotes excellence in medical communication through education, publications, and networking. Provides training and certificates and is working with several other organizations toward providing certification (a more expensive and elaborate ongoing process). Cynthia Haggard had a history of AMWA on her excellent Clarifying blog.
Asian Council of Science Editors (ACSE)
Associations of science journalists that belong to the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), including (among forty national, regional, or international organizations) the Arab Science Journalists Association (ASJA) and the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW)
Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences (ACE)
••• Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). Extremely helpful organization. listserv, and conference for health and medical writers, with excellent resources available only to members. These include Covering Medical Research, the 2010 slim guide for understanding and reporting on studies (by Gary Schwitzer with Ivan Oransky), for AHCJ and the Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism; Covering Health in a Multicultural Society: A resource guide for journalists; Covering Hospitals: Using Tools on the Web; Covering Obesity: A Guide for Reporters ; Covering the Health of Local Nursing Homes ; Covering the Quality of Health Care: A Resource Guide for Journalists; Covering Medical Research: A Guide for Reporting on Studies; and Navigating the CDC: A Journalist’s Guide to the CDC Web Site . Plus issues of Health Beat, AHCJ's journal.

Association of Health Care Journalists Statement of Principless
Association of Independent Information Professionals (aiip, an industry association for owners of independent information businesses)
AuthorAID -- a global research community providing networking, mentoring, resources and training to help developing country researchers publish their work
••• Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS). See Becoming a board-certified editor.

Canadian Science Writers' Association (CSWA)
Council of Science Editors (CSE) (formerly the Council of Biology Editors, CBE). See CSE's Facebook page for style tips from CSE's manual, journal Science Editor, Scientific Style and Format
Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW)
DC Science Writers Association (DCSWA, pronounced DUCK-swah)
DC Science Cafe
DC Science Comedy
Drug Information Association (DIA)
The European Association of Science Editors (EASE)
European Medical Writers Association (EMWA)
Guild of Health Writers (UK)
Health and Science Communications Association (H&SCA)
• International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (known as the Vancouver Group, ICMJE). (I am not providing a link because my Norton software rates the site as unsafe in terms of computer threats.)
International Science Writers Association (ISWA)
International Society for the History of Medicine (SIHM)
International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), pronounced IzMap (for stakeholders involved in the publication of medical research, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and device companies, medical publications and communications agencies, medical journal publishers and editors, and professional medical writers). Provides a formal, voluntary professional certification examination
International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE), training and networking for editorial office staff in academic, scientific, medical, technical and professional publishing
JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments, the first PubMed-indexed video methods journal in biology)
••• National Association of Science Writers (NSWA), a major national association. NASW discussion groups. The National Association of Science Writers maintains eight public email lists for the discussion of subjects of interest to science writers and two lists available only to members (including NASW Jobs). Topics for the public lists: science writing, freelancing, public relations, writing or marketing science books, teaching science writing, freedom of information issues, general discussion (NASW-chat). See also Writer Resources., including Online resources for science writers. Explore the site.
National Commission for Certification of CME Professionals (NC-CME)
National Education Technology Writers Association (NETWA)

New England Science Writers (NESW)
Northern California Science Writers Association (NCSWA, pronounced NICK swa)
Northwest Science Writers Association (NSWA)
Nurse Author & Editor (newsletters may be helpful)
Organizations for technical writers (links to an international list of professional organizations, maintained by Peter Ring consultants, Denmark)
Penn State Association of Science Writers (a/​k/​a Penn State Science Writers Group)
Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS) (making better healthcare products possible)
Science and Medicine SIG of the American Society of Indexers (ASI)
Science Writers in New York (SWINY)
••• Society for Technical Communication (STC), many local chapter
••• Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ)
Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science (SAHMS)
World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), for editors of peer-reviewed medical journals)
World Conference of Science Journalists (Helsinki, Finland, June 24-28, 2013). ‘Killer’ science journalists of the future ready to take over the world! (Bora Zivkovic, Scientific American blog, 9-23-12, reporting on the 2012 World Conference of Science Journalists)
••• World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), made up of forty member associations. Holding its first U.S.-based conference Oct. 26-30, 2017, in San Francisco (theme: Bridging Science and Societies).

Improving relationships between science and medical journalists and public information officers (PIOs)

For successful information requests, be familiar with guidelines for HHS public affairs staff (Irene M. Wielawski, Covering Health, AHCJ, 7-27-17)
Resolution No. 2: Calling on Journalists to Oppose the Mandated Clearance Culture "WHEREAS the Society recognizes the legitimate need for organizations to withhold certain information for legal or proprietary reasons; WHEREAS, nevertheless, SPJ has clearly stated in previous resolutions its concerns regarding the harm done by restrictions on access, including mandates that reporters always go through PIOs"... "BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that journalists should resist official efforts to make reporters nothing more than stenographers and openly oppose restrictions on access."
A Journalist's Guide to the Federal Courts
AHCJ, HHS officials address appeal process for inadequate responses by PIOs (Irene M. Wielawski, Covering Health, AHCJ, 5-30-14)
Science Journalists Vs. Public Information Officers (Paul Raeburn, Undark, 6-1-16) Despite recent disagreements over who should control the professional group to which they both belong, the battle ended decades ago. Do read the comments and all these articles.
Guidelines on the Provision of Information to News Media (HHS, January 2017)
HHS Public Affairs Contacts
PIO Censorship in the Era of Trump (Kathryn Foxhall, Sunshine Week, American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 3-13-17)
A Looming Rift in Science Journalism (Aleszu Bajak, Cross Sections, UnDark, 5-27-16) A new report suggests that a roiling debate may tear apart one of the country’s oldest professional journalistic organizations.
How Journalists Can Help Hold Scientists Accountable (Michael Schulson, Pacific Standard, 3-22-16)
Survey: Journalists Report Impediments by Federal Public Information Officers (Society of Professional Journalists, 3-12-12) An online survey of 146 Washington, D.C.-area reporters in February indicated overwhelming frustration from journalists trying to interview federal employees or get basic information for the public. The survey was conducted by SPJ's Freedom of Information Committee.
Public Information Officers, various pieces about PIOs. (National Association of Science Writers)
The seven deadly sins of the science PIO (and how to avoid them) (Amanda Mascarelli, NASW, 10-16-11)
[Back to Top]

Seminars and workshops on science writing

Truth in Numbers (Cathy Shufro, Dartmouth Medicine.) A story about Medicine in the Media. During the nine years since it was initiated, 500 journalists have attended the course, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Medicine in the Media at Geisel, and the White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Vermont. "We want doctors, the public, and policymakers to know what they can and cannot get from various medications, treatments, and interventions." Related reading: Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics, by by Steven Woloshin, Lisa M. Schwartz, and H. Gilbert Welch
Medicine in the Media Course (canceled in 2013 because of sequestration)
Archived events, Knight Digital Media Center (available to registered members only)
Narrative Medicine workshops provide narrative training with stories of illness to enable "practitioners to comprehend patients’ experiences and to understand what they themselves undergo as clinicians." (See separate entry for Narrative Medicine, for more information.)
Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop
Writing in the Sciences (Stanford Online) Courses by Platform (Stanford Openedx)
• Certification for medical writers. The Certified Medical Publication Professional (CMPP) exam is a three-hour, 150-item, multiple-choice computer-based examination, open to both members of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) members and nonmembers. Holding the certificate shows you have a thorough working knowledge of all aspects of medical publishing, including planning, execution, and professional ethics. One can also take the CMEP exam for CME, and AMWA plans to develop its own credentialing exam. On that subject, see:
Are We Certifiable? (AMWA Journal blog 9-12-11)
People Are Talking (AMWA Journal blog 9-27-11)
AMWA certificate programs
Google "science writing workshop" and you'll find some courses associated with colleges and universities. See also
Bars and Pies Make Better Desserts than Figures , a sample chapter from Clinical Chemistry Guide to Scientific Writing (Clinical Chemistry's series of educational articles on how to design and write scientific research papers for publication--free online). Articles included:
Part 1. The Title Says It All
Part 2. The Abstract and the Elevator Talk: A Tale of Two Summaries
Part 3. "It was a cold and rainy night": Set the Scene with a Good Introduction
Part 4. Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why: The Ingredients in the Recipe for a Successful Methods Section
Part 5. Show Your Cards: The Results Section and the Poker Game
Part 6. If an IRDAM Journal Is What You Choose, Then Sequential Results Are What You Use
Part 7. Put Your Best Figure Forward: Line Graphs and Scattergrams
Part 8. Bars and Pies Make Better Desserts than Figures
Part 9. Bring Your Best to the Table
Part 10. The Discussion Section: Your Closing Argument
Part 11. Giving Credit: Citations and References
Part 12. How to Write a Rave Review
Part 13. Top 10 Tips for Responding to Reviewer and Editor Comments
Part 14. Passing the Paternité Test
[Back to Top]

Medical conferences journalists might cover

How to Find Medical Conferences (Bob Finn's links). Finn shows high ratings for three of the listings he links to:
Doctor's Guide
Doctor's Review
Clocate (
Excellent but Little-Known Medical Conferences (also Bob Finn, on his Medical Conference Blog, an opinionated, occasionally cranky, occasionally snarky blog on medical meetings from the viewpoint of a medical journalist)
Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare conference listings
Tips for covering scientific conferences (Mark Taylor, Association of Health Care Journalists). For members only.
[Back to Top]

Degree programs in science writing

Boston University, Science Journalism. Here is their FAQs page.
MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing (a one-year Master's degree program). Here's Scope (the program's student publication)
NYU Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) (New York University, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute) Who We Are: Storytellers with a Passion for Science. What We Do: A Customized Curriculum, a Hands-On Approach. Where We Work: NYC, the World Capital of Science Journalism.
University of California at Santa Cruz (Science Communication Program)
Program on Hiatus (Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, 5-3-13). "The Hopkins science writing program was always an odd fit for the institution, Finkbeiner said -- not that it contradicted the research university’s mission, but because it was housed alongside a master of fine arts program in fiction and poetry in the writing seminars department. It also relied wholly on part-time employees and adjunct instructors....Programs that exist independently seem to be faring worse than those that can draw on the resources of a full-fledged journalism school."
Johns Hopkins Graduate Science Writing Program to Close (Michael Price, Science, 5-1-13)
Columbia Suspends Environmental Journalism Program (Curtis Brainard, CJR, 10-19-09). Falling employment, rising education costs to blame. "Although our graduates have done well in their careers, even those still employed are finding few opportunities to do the kind of substantive reporting for which the dual degree program has trained them, as they scramble to do their own work plus that of laid-off colleagues. "
[Back to Top]

Online writing workshops, courses

Analytical writing for science & technology (T.M.Georges' online course, recommended by Sarah Wernick)
Chest's Medical Writing Tip of the Month (your own personal online medical writing course). Chest Online--and it's free! PDF files of such articles as Reporting a Systematic Review; Hypothesis Testing, Study Power, and Sample Size; Comments on Writing Letters to the Editor: Moving From Duels and Fencing to Belles Lettres; Translating Patient Education Materials; Reporting "Basic Results" in; Backing Up Your Statements: How To Perform Literature Searches To Prove Your Points; When a Picture Needs 1,000 Words; Abstracts for Professional Meetings: Small But Mighty; On the Table: Form and Function. Genuinely informative series.
• ****Clinical Chemistry Guide to Scientific Writing (free, online--full text, from the American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
Online course offerings, Medical editing (University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and
Professional studies)
Online Course in Science Journalism (WFSJ and SciDev.Net), created by the World Federation of Science Journalists in close cooperation with the Science and Development Network, for use by professional journalists, journalism students and teachers. The first eight lessons (free for use by anyone in the world):
1) Planning and structuring your work (Jan Lublinkski)
2) Finding and judging science stories (Julie Clayton)
3) The interview (Christina Scott)
4) Writing skills (Nadia El-Awady)
5) What is science? (Gervais Mbarga and Jean-Marc Fleury)
6) Reporting on controversies (KS Jayaraman)
7) Reporting on science policy (Hepeng Jia and Richard Stone)
8) How to shoot science (Šárka Speváková and Carolyn Robinson).
For each course there is an e-lecture, self-teaching questions, assignments, and PDF versions. Read the User's Guide to the Online Course in Science Journalism . The course is available in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Turkish.
Freelance Medical Writing.: Make a 6-Figure Income and Work at Home Using Your Scientific/​Medical Background (Books 1-6 from Emma Hitt Nichols' online course). Available as one book or several:
1–Medical Writing Prerequisite Skills and First Steps
2–Setting up Shop
3–Writing the Medical News
4–Writing Continuing Medical Education
5–Feature Article Writing for Science Journals, Magazines, and Trade Mags
6–Running Your Freelance Medical Writing Business
[Back to Top]

How not to misread or misreport research reports

Journalists should understand the "Hierarchy of Evidence Pyramid" and know when not to generalize from items low on the pyramid (picture these forming a pyramid):

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses
Randomized controlled double-blind studies
Cohort studies
Case control studies
Case series
Case reports
Animal research
In vitro (test tube) research
Ideas, editorials, opinions

That's on page 10 of Covering Medical Research: A Guide for Reporting on Studies (PDF, Association of Health Care Journalists, 2009). Then read on!

Association vs Causation: Observational Studies -- Does the language fit the evidence? (Mark Zweig and Emily DeVoto, HealthNewsReview) When studies find an association between two things, it does NOT mean that one thing caused the other to happen. Observational studies are useful for identifying trends but do not demonstrate cause and effect. "A subtle trap occurs in the transition from the cautious, nondirectional, noncausal, passive language that scientists use in reporting the results of observational studies to the active language favored in mass media. Active language is fine in general – who wants to write like a scientist? But problems can arise when the use of causal language is not justified by the study design. For example, a description of an association (e.g., associated with reduced risk) can become, via a change to the active voice (reduces risk), an unwarranted description of cause and effect."

Observational Studies – Does The Language Fit The Evidence? – Association Versus Causation (Mark Zweig and Emily DeVoto, Health News Review) "Because observational studies are not randomized, they cannot control for all of the other inevitable, often unmeasurable, exposures or factors that may actually be causing the results. Thus, any link between cause and effect in observational studies is speculative at best....A subtle trap occurs in the transition from the cautious, nondirectional, noncausal, passive language that scientists use in reporting the results of observational studies to the active language favored in mass media." "An important part of reporting results of research in health news lies in attention to language that may in subtle ways imply cause-and-effect relationships, where the underlying study design does not warrant such language. We urge health care journalists to be mindful of when causal language is warranted by the study design and when it is not." A must-read for journalists.

A primer on composite outcomes (Kevin Lomangino, HealthNewsReview) Distinguish between clinically significant end points and secondary end points. "It’s increasingly clear that surrogate endpoints don’t tell the entire story when it comes to a treatment’s effectiveness....we learned that a drug which raises cholesterol (a surrogate for cardiovascular disease risk) had no effect on the incidence of heart attacks and strokes." rates health and medical news stories (about medical treatments, tests, products and procedures) for accuracy, balance, and completeness -- helping consumers critically analyze claims about health care interventions
HNR's ten important review criteria, explained (for example, Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention? Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/​test/​product/​procedure? Does the story adequately explain/​quantify the harms of the intervention? Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence? Does the story commit disease-mongering? Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest? Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives? Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/​test/​product/​procedure? Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach? Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release? (Sample warning: "This story is pretty much a rewrite of a drug-company or medical center news release.") On the same page you will find review criteria for news releases, which includes additional comments: Does the news release identify funding sources & disclose conflicts of interest? Does the news release include unjustifiable, sensational language, including in the quotes of researchers?

How do you know if a research study is any good? (David Levine captures advice given by three panelists--Bonnie D. Kerker, Carolyn 'Cari' Olson, and Ivan Oransky--at the second joint meeting of Science Writers in New York (SWINY), Elsevier, 12-11-12) For example: Carolyn Olson: ‘To evaluate a study, you need context.’ Dr. Bonnie Kerker: ‘How meaningful is this study?’ She noted that although Randomized controlled trials are considered the gold standard, it is very difficult to do an RCT in public health. To detect risk factors associated with disease, public health researchers are more likely to conduct a prospective cohort study. Dr. Ivan Oransky (“Evaluating Medical Evidence for Journalists”), warned journalists to make sure they understand the studies they write about — and to be willing to question the methods or findings. “Writing about a study after reading just a press release on abstract, without reading the entire paper, is journalistic malpractice,” he said.

Retraction Watch offers some transparency about transparency (AHCJ) In the years since its inception, Retraction Watch has documented hundreds of troubled scientific papers that were eventually retracted, as well as other related controversies. Founders Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus have learned a lot in that time about following up on retractions, errors or other problematic aspects of scientific research. The authors mention:
---The Office of Research Integrity (ORI), U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services. Contact them if you suspect science fraud or scientific misconduct "(or go directly to the universities and oversight organizations who would do the investigating. Give 'research integrity officers, or the equivalent, at the institutions where the authors in question work; the head start instead of the authors suspected of misconduct."
---PubPeer. When a paper smells a little off, check PubPeer "where commenters can anonymously post about a published work. This could be particularly helpful for a reporter covering a study that isn’t embargoed. It only takes a moment to stop at PubPeer and do a quick search to see what’s been said about a paper you’re writing about or using in research."
One bad stat can spoil the bunch – another cautionary tale (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 7-21-17)

The March of Science — The True Story (Lisa Rosenbaum, New England Journal of Medicine, 2017; 377:188-191, 7-13-17). Required reading. As Norman Bauman summarizes, "journalists should include the strength of evidence in their stories. That's even more important than 'who paid for the study?' We should distinguish controlled studies, which can demonstrate causality, from associational studies, which can never demonstrate causality." Rosenbaum says scientists should frame scientific findings "more effectively to signal their degree of uncertainty and thus enduring credibility." "... the media could preface any new finding with what the literature says, on balance, about the topic in question; readers might then understand that any marked aberration is less likely to be true." She makes several important points, including this one: "in a polarized society, what we really need to resist may be human nature — this impulse to believe what we want to believe....Asked to evaluate the evidence’s quality and persuasiveness [when two studies were compared], participants rated research that contradicted their prior beliefs poorly in both respects, and unexpectedly, exposure to it resulted in more, not less, polarization between the two groups." [Examples: climate science and nutrition science.] Psychologist Daniel Wegner Wegner "described two fundamental impulses driving scientific progress: 'We must know the truth' and 'We must avoid error.'...If we go overboard in either direction, though , we risk a field that is not knowledgeable at all.” And "although communicating science’s dynamic by focusing heavily on its failings risks heightening public disbelief, the remedy is not to hide our errors. Such suppression will 'rebound' and undoubtedly fuel further distrust. Instead, I think we have to learn to tell stories that emphasize that what makes science right is the enduring capacity to admit we are wrong. Such is the slow, imperfect march of science." She points out that to communicate with the public you ave to tell a good story.
The American Heart Association Evidence-Based Scoring System. The American Diabetes Association also has an "evidence grading system."

How Two Studies on Cancer Screening Led to Two Results (H. Gilbert Welch, Steven Woloshin, and Lisa M. Schwartz, NY Times, 3-13-07). A crystal-clear explanation of how two studies — in the country’s two most prestigious medical journals — arrive at diametrically opposite conclusions. A screening that increases survival rates does not necessarily reduce mortality -- it could have started measuring at an early age. And because all lung cancer patients get treated, overdiagnosis means some people receive treatment that can’t help them (because they do not need it) and can only cause harm. Dr. Welch is the author of Should I Be Tested for Cancer?: Maybe Not and Here's Why. As one reader writes, "Even when a treatment can cut the deaths from a particular cancer in half, most current treatments create non-cancer deaths, many of which will be improperly reported."

Resveratrol Redux, Or: Should I Just Stop Writing About Health? (Virginia Hughes, Only Human, a Phenomena Science Salon blog, 5-12-16) But when it comes to writing health stories, it’s hard — really, really hard — to include that slow scientific progression [natural in science] in a way that a reader will absorb. And I think that’s because readers don’t seek out health stories to satisfy abstract intellectual curiosities. They want to glean some kind of practical knowledge. See also The Problems of Health Journalism (Storify-ed).

Sharon Begley’s Brief Guide to Writing Medical News (The Open Notebook, 2-2-16) How can you separate findings that are likely to be true from those destined for the dustbin of science? She links to (and explains succinctly) False positive mammograms and cancer risk: An epidemiological whodunit (Saurabh Jha, HealthNewsReview, 12-23-15)

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False (John P. A. Ioannidis,PLoS Medicine, 8-30-05) When is a research finding more or less likely to be true (or false)?

Research integrity: Don't let transparency damage science (Stephan Lewandowsky & Dorothy Bishop, Nature, 1-25-16)
"Many measures that can improve science2 — shared data, post-publication peer review and public engagement on social media — can be turned against scientists....Orchestrated and well-funded harassment campaigns against researchers working in climate change and tobacco control are well documented, Some hard-line opponents to other research, such as that on nuclear fallout, vaccination, chronic fatigue syndrome or genetically modified organisms, although less resourced, have employed identical strategies." How to distinguish scrutiny from harassment.

Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show (Eric Lipton, NY Times, 9-5-15)
Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets (Anahad O'Connor, Fitness blog, NY Times, 8-9-15)
64 more papers retracted for fake reviews, this time from Springer journals (Retraction Watch). One of many, which you can find on the Retraction Watch site.

Randomized trials are no panacea for what ails nutrition research (Reijo Laatikainen, HealthNewsReview, 8-26-15). Randomized controlled trials are the "gold standard" for evidence, but researchers face pressure to design their studies in a way that increases the likelihood of observing a positive result. ("Studies with positive results are more likely to get published in authoritative journals. And publication in authoritative journals leads to funding, prestige, and career advancement for researchers.") Adherence to the trial by participants is far from complete. And when participants can guess which part of the trial they are in, there may be a placebo effect for what they consume. And those are just some of the problems.

You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition (Christie Aschwanden, FiveThirtyEight Science, 1-6-16) "...short of locking people in a room and carefully measuring out all their meals, it’s hard to know exactly what people eat. So nearly all nutrition studies rely on measures of food consumption that require people to remember and report what they ate. The most common of these are food diaries, recall surveys and the food frequency questionnaire, or FFQ." But recalling what you ate is difficult, perceptions of serving size differ, people underreport foods deemed unhealthy, reporting what you eat changes how you eat while reporting it, etc. "observational studies using memory-based measures of dietary intake are" too crude as tools with which to generalize what's good or bad for you.

How the sausage inside a nutrition study is made (Kevin Lomangino, HealthNewsReview, 1-6-16) Christie Aschwanden's piece (above) makes points HNR often makes: 1. Questionnaire-based nutrition data are inaccurate. 2. “Positive” results are often false-positives. 3. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. 4. Benefits are overstated through reporting of relative risks.
[Back to Top]

Against Stigma: Writing Responsibly About Mental Illness (Emily DePrang, Reporting on Health blog, 4-2-14). Write about mental illness more regularly and outside of a criminal context. There are plenty of fascinating stories.

“Thousands of lives lost”? Why calls for faster drug approvals need more scrutiny HealthNewsReview)

All about Stories: How to Tell Them, How They’re Changing, and What They Have to Do with Science (Lena Groeger, Scientific American, 6-6-11, reporting on the World Science Festival)

Author list on a scientific paper (Jorge Cham comic, PhD Comics)

Award-winning articles on health and medicine (Association of Health Care Journalists)

Four steps for effective science communication (Baruch Fischhoff, Sci Dev Net) "The first step is to identify the uncertainties and questions that matter to the audience." "Scientists should adopt a systematic approach to explaining what they do, and do not, know."

Tips for Understanding Animal and Lab Studies (HealthNewsReview)
Tips for understanding studies
Story Reviews - Systematic, Criteria-Driven
Industry-Independent Experts Journalists Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer's list of more than 100 independent health care experts (meaning they do not have financial ties to drug or medical device manufacturers) to whom reporters can turn
Covering Medical Research (by publisher Gary Schwitzer; published by the Association of Health Care Journalists)
Links to other resources
Health News Watchdog blog (publisher's perspective, opinion--different from the systematic story reviews
What is real-world evidence, and why do we need it? (sponsored content on STAT). Social media is also emerging as a platform for patients to share information about their experiences with particular treatments. While there are concerns about using this information, given it is not being exchanged in a clinical setting, we can learn from these aggregated data about how patients are responding (or not), who may have been excluded from clinical trials, and who are currently on the treatment of interest. Advances in social media are helping us to capture more about the patient journey and more specifically what patients need or want when it comes to what a drug does for them.

Priggish NEJM Editorial on Data-sharing Misses the Point It Almost Made (Vasudevan Mukunth, The Wire, 1-24-16)).
[Back to Top]

Evidence-based medicine

Bad Science (Ben Goldacre on how to spot good and bad science) Goldacre also provides a do-it-yourself way to learn about randomization and randomized trials at Randomise Me.
Bring On the Transparency Index ( Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky, The Scientist, 8-1-12). Grading journals on how well they share information with readers will help deliver accountability to an industry that often lacks it. See follow-up and comments here: The Retraction Watch Transparency Index.
The Campbell Collaboration
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Centre for Evidence-Based medicine, provides education and training, and through its blog, articles and opinions for the public. See for example The Double-Edged Sword of the Evidence-Based Medicine Renaissance
The Cochran Collaboration (evidence-based healthcare databases). See The Cochrane Collaboration might be “Medicine’s Best Kept Secret” (but it shouldn’t be for journalists) (HealthNewsReview). There is no better “context” for health care evidence than the body of 5,000 reviews in the Cochrane Library. The abstracts and plain language summaries of all Cochrane reviews are on their website. The in-depth reviews are made available free to journalists who belong to the Association of Healthcare Journalists and are also available at most university libraries.
Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions
Cochran Summaries (information to help you make choices about health care)
Core Topic: Medical Studies (Association of Health Care Journalists) Guides for journalists on reporting, interpreting graphs, the peer review process, understanding bias and statistics, and media coverage.
Cost-Effectiveness Analysis (NCBI)
Epidemiology 101, Julie Buring's talk, video, in three parts, from Day 1 of Knight Science Journalism's popular Medical Evidence Boot Camp.
Evidence-based health care and systematic reviews (The Cochrane Collaboration). "Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health."
The Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre) (University of London)
Flossing and the Art of Scientific Investigation (Jamie Holmes, Gray Matter, NY Times, 11-25-16) It’s considered unethical to run randomized controlled trials without genuine uncertainty among experts regarding what works. And dentists know from a range of evidence, including clinical experience, that interdental cleaning is critical to oral health and that flossing, properly done, works. Yet the notion has taken hold that such expertise is fatally subjective and that only randomized controlled trials provide real knowledge. Many psychologists believe that dismissing a century of clinical observation and knowledge as anecdotal, as research-driven schools like cognitive behavioral therapy have sometimes done, has weakened the bonds between clinical discovery and scholarly evaluation. See also (Jeff Donn, AP, 8-2-16)
Glossary of common terms (NIH)
HealthNewsReview (grades health stories for quality of reporting and accuracy)
Making Evidence Matter (EvidenceNetwork.Ca) Creates original media content on public policy topics for publication in the mainstream media and links journalists with policy experts to provide access to non-partisan, evidence-based information.
Medicaid Evidence Based Decisions Project (MED) (a self governing collaboration of state Medicaid agencies and their partners--its mission: to provide policymakers with the tools and resources they need to make evidence-based decisions. (Includes links to reports.)
MedLinePlus (trusted health information, U.S. National Library of Medicine)
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, UK) Browse by conditions and diseases, health protection, population groups, etc.
NIH Clinical Research Trials and You (National Institutes of Health, aka NIH) Improving health and social care through evidence-based guidance
NREPP (SAMHSA'S national registry of evidence-based programs and practices)
Numbers and statistics glossary (Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice)
PubMed (26 million citations for biomedical literature from MedLine, life science journals, online books). But see: A Confusion of Journals — What Is PubMed Now? (Kent Anderson, The Scholarly Kitchen, 9-7-17) PubMed may be consciously or unwittingly acting as a facilitator of predatory or unscrupulous publishing. PubMed’s brand has long been muddled in ways that pass lower-quality works through the system under cover of prestige. This has real consequences...."the port of MEDLINE to PubMed was a smart move, and some interface changes have been commendable. At other times, these adaptations have revealed a clear lack of purpose and mission, such as the controversial involvement with eLife, the competition with publisher brands and traffic, and now the loose standards that have allowed unscrupulous publishers to enter PubMed via PMC."
PubPeer (the online journal club). A website that allows users to discuss and review scientific research after publication. Discussions have highlighted shortcomings in several high-profile papers, in some cases leading to retractions and to accusations of scientific fraud. Comments must use only facts that can be verified. See PubPeer’s secret is out: Founder of controversial website reveals himself (Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, Science, 8-31-15)
ResearchImpact (turning research into action -- good research summaries on many topics)
Retraction Watch (The Center for Scientific Integrity) Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process--reports on clinical studies retracted for plagiarism, fraud, and other reasons. See Retraction Watch FAQ, including comments policy.
Sense About Science (charitable trust in UK, promoting good science and evidence for the public, partly by responding to misrepresentations about science)
STAT (reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine)
STAT Plus. Premium STAT subscription, $299 a year, or $29 a month, a " premium subscription that provides you with access to exclusive, in-depth pharma, biotech, business, and policy coverage, keeping you on top of what’s happening in the industry — as it happens." First month free.
Webliography of resources for evidence-based health care (Cochran Collaboration links to books, articles, and online resources (sorted by specialty); databases offering online access to medical evidence; journals (etc.); medical news reviews (assessing the accuracy and quality of news reporting); patient resources; tutorials and tools; and social media resources.

What Constitutes Peer Review of Data? A Survey of Peer Review Guidelines (Todd A Carpenter, The Scholarly Kitchen, 4-11-17)
What is good evidence (Centre for Evidence Based Intervention (CEBI), includes links to "High-quality systematic and other research reviews" and answers questions: What is good evidence? How to use evidence, links to good evidence, links to tools for understanding evidence, research designs, and glossary.

"Statistics are like swimwear -- what they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital." ~-Ashish Mahajan, Lancet 2007
[Back to Top]

Medical conferences journalists might want to cover:
How to Find Medical Conferences (Bob Finn's links).
Doctor's Review
Clocate (
Excellent but Little-Known Medical Conferences (also Bob Finn, on his Medical Conference Blog, an opinionated, occasionally cranky, occasionally snarky blog on medical meetings from the viewpoint of a medical journalist)
Calendar of upcoming health and medical conferences (Association of Health Care Journalists)
Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare conferences
Tips for covering scientific conferences (Mark Taylor, Association of Health Care Journalists). For members only.
[Back to Top]

Conflicts of interest in science and medical writing

On Science Journalism and Conflicts-of-Interest (Brooke Borel, Popular Science, 10-20-15) Borel advises: Ask where money offered to you is coming from, think how that might be perceived, consider whether taking the money would influence your objectivity, and "disclose, disclose, disclose."
Where do science journalists draw the line? (Paul D. Thacker, CJR, 11-23-15) "While issues of journalistic ethics aren’t new, the debate has become contentious recently in the world of science journalism. One key reason is a push by industry to combat the labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMO). Advocates for labeling, who think coverage has been too favorable toward industry, have fought back by questioning the independence of journalists covering GMOs.: Thacker recounts what happened to Brooke Borel (see previous entry). Standards vary greatly across media, as Thacker illustrates.
Side Effects | Money, Medicine, and Patients Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel's many investigations have revealed the troubling influence of drug companies on American medicine. The stories have looked at conflicts of interest, flawed science and shoddy oversight by federal regulators – from back surgery products to the use of opioids to treat long-term pain. Highlights of and links to a long series of articles.
Scientific journals squabble over conflict-of-interest policies (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 6-15-15) One of the most important aspects of reporting on medical studies is identifying and making sense of researchers’ potential financial conflicts of interest. "A lengthy three-part series at the New England Journal of Medicine, introduced by NEJM editor Jeffrey Drazen, M.D., asks whether those sorts of financial conflict-of-interest policies and regulations are wise. Part I concludes with rhetorical questions regarding “appearances” of a conflict of interest, suggesting that “reasoned approaches to managing financial conflicts are eclipsed by cries of corruption even when none exists.” Part II explores ways of understanding bias. Part III, “Beyond Moral Outrage – Weighing the Trade-Offs of COI Regulation,” ask readers to vote on what a journal editor should do in three case studies. (Go to AHCJ story for links.)
Scientists Loved and Loathed by an Agrochemical Giant (Danny Hakim, Business Day, NY Times, 12-31-16) With corporate funding of research, "There's no scientist who comes out of this unscathed."
Conflicts of Interest, Authorship, and Disclosures in Industry-Related Scientific Publications: The Tort Bar and Editorial Oversight of Medical Journal (Laurence J. Hirsch, MD, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Sep. 2009, as posted on PMC, Public Library of Medicine)
Uncovering conflicts of interest in medicine, research (John Fauber, AHCJ, 3-18-10)
When Conflict-of-Interest is a Factor in Scientific Misconduct (PDF, Sheldon Krimsky, MedLaw 2007) Includes section on Ghostwriting as Misconduct.
[Back to Top]

Covering health reform, Medicare,
Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Covering Health Issues (6th edition, 2011 update, free PDF download). This 200-page book presents concise information on health policy issues, lists expert sources from across the political spectrum, and includes an extensive glossary, ideas and examples for TV and radio reporters, and links to polls on health issues. Chapter contents: Health reform, cost of health care, quality of care, employer-sponsored health coverage, children's health coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care, disparities, mental health and substance abuse, public health, polls on health care issues, covering health issues for TV and radio, acronyms and glossary). Julie Rovner demonstrates how to use it (YouTube video). Reporters may find pages of links to organizations and experts particularly helpful. (7th edition available November 2013)
Journalists learn about intricacies of prescription drug pricing (Liz Seegert, Covering Health, Association of Health Care Journalists, 2-27-17) Why are drug costs so high in the United States? This and other questions were addressed at a meeting of the New York chapter of AHCJ. What can justify a "$50,000 cancer drug that extended life for an average of 17 days"? A helpful summary of what several experts explained about how we in the U.S. end up with exploitative prices on some drugs. Among points made (but do read the whole thing): (1) "It’s the doctor, not the patient, who decides what to prescribe. Our current system also rewards doctors for prescribing more expensive drugs. (2) Doctors are typically making those decisions with little information about cost . Now with more patients in high-deductible plans with a coinsurance model, there’s sticker shock and people are asking questions. (3) Nobody knows if we are spending the right amount on drugs, said Peter Bach, MD, director of the Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcome. Moreover, we do not know if we are spending it on the right drugs, either. See Drugs, Big Pharma, conflicts of interest, and why U.S. patients pay too much for medication .
Following criticism, PLOS removes blog defending scrutiny of science (Retraction Watch, Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process) Community blog PLOS Biologue has pulled a post by journalists Charles Seife and Paul Thacker that argued in favor of public scrutiny of scientists’ behavior (including emails), following heavy criticism, including from a group and scientist mentioned in the post.
For successful information requests, be familiar with guidelines for HHS public affairs staff (Irene M. Wielawski, Covering Health, AHCJ, 7-27-15)
CMS Special Open Door Forums
The Dueling Data on Campus Rape (Dana Goldstein, Justice Lab, The Marshall Project, 12-11-14) Some of the research issues that account for divergent statistics.
What a New Survey Can — and Can’t — Tell Us About Campus Sexual Assault (Jesse Singal, Science of Us, New York Magazine, 5-20-15) As Dana Goldstein explained, above, "two different approaches to estimating the rate of rape on campus, both conducted by professionally trained researchers, led to results — 0.6 percent versus the famous “one in five” figure often cited in these discussions — separated by a chasm."
Find low-cost Medicare plans, by state (eHealth)
Health care reform, medical error, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) , links to many helpful articles about Obamacare
Medicaid and State Children''s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, Kaiser's useful website)
State Health Facts, in several categories, by state (Kaiser Family Foundation--including information about Medicaid and CHIP)
Medicaid Fact Sheets (by state, American Academy of Pediatrics)
How one reporting team used public records to find questionable Medicare Advantage spending (Fred Schulte, Association of Health Care Journalists, AHCJ, 7-21-14). There's "there’s a lot federal officials don’t want the public to see when it comes to Medicare Advantage, a type of Medicare plan administered by private insurance companies." Schulte lists sources used in learning the flaw in Medicare's system of paying more for high-risk patients than for low-risk patients: health plans overstate how sick patients are to collect more money. See also Cracking the Codes:How doctors and hospitals have collected billions in questionable Medicare fees (Schulte and David Donald, Center for Public Integrity 9-15-12) on "how some medical professionals have billed at sharply higher rates than their peers and collected billions of dollars of questionable fees as a result."
Covering the Uninsured: Options for Reform (Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, 9-15-08)
Health Policy essentials (essential information about Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance & the uninsured, CHIP, the Safety Net, pharmaceuticals, public health, aging & long-term care, and workforce issues, in a variety of formats, from the National Health Policy Forum)
Patient Advocacy in Patient Safety: Have Things Changed? (Helen Haskell, Perspective, June 2014, AHRQ, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality). An important historical overview of patient safety efforts.
Health Policy Reform: Beyond the 2008 Elections (The Commonwealth Fund), appeared originally in the Columbia Journalism Review
New Analysis of Health Insurance Premium Trends in the Individual Market Finds Average Yearly Increases of 10 Percent or More Prior to the Affordable Care Act (The Commonwealth Fund, June 5, 2014) New Data Set Standard for Comparing This Year's Premiums in State and Federal Health Insurance Marketplaces
The Employer Mandate: Essential or Dispensable? (David Blumenthal, M.D. and David Squires, Commonwealth Fund blog, 6-4-14)
Residents in the ACA's Nonparticipating States Still Benefiting (David Blumenthal, M.D. and David Squires, Commonwealth Fund blog, 5-28-14)
Growth and Variability in Health Plan Premiums in the Individual Insurance Market Before the Affordable Care Act
The Federal Medical Loss Ratio Rule: Implications for Consumers in Year 2 (Commonwealth Fund)
Despite ‘essential’ designation, dental benefits lacking under ACA (Mary Otto, AHCJ, Covering Health, 4-30-14)
What early numbers tell us about kids’ dental coverage under ACA (Mary Otto, AHCJ, Covering Health, 4-16-14)
Don't run biomedical science as a business (Michele Pagano, Nature, 7-25-17) “When science becomes a business, what matters is not the quality of the product, but whether it sells.”
A closer look: Did the ACA result in more canceled plans? (Joanne Kenen, AHCJ, Covering Health, 4-29-14)
Questions remain despite latest ACA enrollment numbers, projections (Joanne Kenen, AHCJ, Covering Health, 2-20-14)
Looking ahead to new ACA enrollment numbers (Joanne Kenen, AHCJ, Covering Health, 5-1-14)
Texas poses challenges for insurance enrollment under ACA (Joanne Kenen, AHCJ, Covering Health, 7-26-13)
Tips from Texas for covering Medicaid fraud, overtreatment (Mary Otto, AHCJ, Covering Health, 6-5-14)
[Back to Top] rates health and medical news stories (about medical treatments, tests, products and procedures) for accuracy, balance, and completeness -- helping consumers critically analyze claims about health care interventions
HNR's important review criteria, explained (for example, Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention? Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/​test/​product/​procedure? Does the story adequately explain/​quantify the harms of the intervention? Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence? Does the story commit disease-mongering? etc. (10 criteria explained).
Tips for understanding studies
Story Reviews - Systematic, Criteria-Driven
Industry-Independent Experts Journalists Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer's list of more than 100 independent health care experts (meaning they do not have financial ties to drug or medical device manufacturers) to whom reporters can turn
Covering Medical Research (by publisher Gary Schwitzer; published by the Association of Health Care Journalists)
Links to other resources
Health News Watchdog blog (publisher's perspective, opinion--different from the systematic story reviews).
[Back to Top]

Climate change: understanding, arguing about

Trump’s EPA chief launches Soviet-style crackdown on free speech (Amanda Marcotte, Salon, 10-25-17) EPA head Scott Pruitt doesn’t want scientists and officials at his agency to talk about climate change. Specifically, he doesn't want EPA staff to admit that climate change is real.
RealClimate. Climate science from climate scientists.
The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change by David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf.
How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic. Coby Beck's series of responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming, organized in four taxonomies: Stages of Denial, Scientific Topics, Types of Argument, and Levels of Sophistication.
The Birth of Climate Change Denial (WNYC and the United States of Anxiety collaborate on podcast looking at how accepting the reality of climate change became a political issue (38 minutes, 5-17-17)
What every concerned citizen needs to understand about the CO2 Challenge Facing Humankind (Mike Shatzkin, Medium, 11-27-17) An excellent overview of the problem of climate change and a clear explanation of the two main approaches to putting a price on carbon (and reducing fossil fuel consumption): the carbon tax and the carbon cap, revenue-positive and revenue-neutral approaches; of "drawdown" (pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and the oceans) "Deforestation — clearing land for human habitation or agriculture — is a major contributor to our CO2 problem." (See especially Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken.)
A golden opportunity for Democrats to show some bipartisanship on climate change, and for all of us to make some progress (Mike Shatzkin, Medium, 10-18-17)
Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL, a nonpartisan group) "We exist to create the political will for climate solutions by enabling individual breakthroughs in the exercise of personal and political power."
Climate Leadership Council (CLC, a Republican group)
The Daily Climate (climate news delivered to your inbox, free, daily)
Fact-checking President Trump’s claims on the Paris climate change deal (Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, WaPo, 6-1-17)
Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine (Greenpeace) The Koch Brothers have sent at least $100,343,292 directly to 84 groups denying climate change science since 1997. Greenpeace uses 1997 as a benchmark year due to increased coordinated backlash against global climate negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol of 1998. We define climate change denial as “anyone who is obstructing, delaying or trying to derail policy steps that are in line with the scientific consensus that says we need to take rapid steps to decarbonize the economy.” Conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch ponied up $650 million to help Meredith Corporation buy Time Inc. "The Koch brothers continue to finance campaigns to make Americans doubt the seriousness of global warming, increasingly hiding money through nonprofits like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Why focus on Charles Koch and David Koch? Many large foundations associated with corporate fortunes are active in financing climate denial groups — Anschutz, Bradley, Coors, DeVos, Dunn, Howard, Pope, Scaife, Searle, and Seid, to name a few. Unlike Koch, most of those fortunes did not come from owning a corporation like Koch Industries, historically rooted in fossil fuel operations."
When Canadian Scientists Were Muzzled by Their Government (Wendy Palen, NY Times, 2-14-17) "Just as the American science community is now struggling with whether to speak out and march or stay quiet and do its work, Canadian scientists wrestled with the same questions. Ultimately, Canada’s scientific community came together to save our research, galvanized support to fight back, and captured the attention and concern of the public. I hope our experience — in the spirit of science transcending borders — can be instructive."
How the Republican Party turned against climate science (YouTube, Vox, 8-22-16) A brief history of American inaction on climate change. During George W. Bush’s administration, Republicans are shown agreeing that climate change is a problem. Senator John McCain says utility companies, petroleum companies, and other special interests are blocking progress on congressional action. In 2010, when Pres. Obama asks for a carbon tax on fossil fuels or a cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions, he rolls out a new rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Republicans begin not to believe that climate change is real, despite scientific commissions issuing dire warnings about rapidly approaching dangers to Planet Earth. An excellent video, which makes it seem that Obama endorsing efforts to reduce climate warming made it a political issue--because Republicans were not going to support anything Obama recommended. (Not in the video, though he is shown in the first clips: We have also been told that Al Gore's intense arguments about reducing carbon emissions are what turned Republicans and made it a partisan issue.)
Climate Scepticism: The top 10 (BBC) Ten of the arguments most often made against the consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) along with some of the counter-arguments made by scientists who agree with the IPCC.
Denialism blog (Mark Hoofnagle, Science Blogs). Don't mistake denialism for debate.
The reluctant geoengineer (Matt Watson, who came to my attention through NPR story Turning to Scientists to Engineer a Cooler Climate (All Things Considered 10-20-13)
Climate change: How do we know? (NASA) Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal. - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Site provides many resources, facts, proposed solutions.
Climate Change & Environment (Food & Water Watch) "Climate change poses the largest environmental threat ever known by humankind. But policymakers are afraid to take the action necessary to stop global warming, even as corporations find new ways to shift all risks to taxpayers and pocket enormous profits."
How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate by Andrew J. Hoffman
Climate Change: A Children’s Book Reading List (Karina Yan Glaser, Book Riot, 1-12-17)
How reliable are climate models? (G.P.Wayne, Skeptical Science) ""Climate models have already predicted many of the phenomena for which we now have empirical evidence. Climate models form a reliable guide to potential climate change."
How We Know Global Warming Is Real and Human Caused (Donald R. Prothero on Anthropogenic Global Warming, eSkeptic, 2-8-12)
Wildfires, health and climate change: Research and resources (David Trilling, Journalist's Resource, 7-18-17) "Since 1984, climate change has been responsible for roughly doubling the area that has burned in the American West, according to a 2016 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (That means two areas the size of Switzerland, rather than one, burned over three-plus decades.) The fires are not only releasing carbon into the atmosphere, thereby exacerbating climate change. The smoke is deadly: “Wildfires emit fine particles and ozone precursors that in turn increase the risk of premature death and adverse chronic and acute cardiovascular and respiratory health outcomes,” said a 2016 report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the coalition of government scientists leading federal climate change inquiry." Summarizes results of several studies.
Harvey Didn’t Come Out of the Blue. Now Is the Time to Talk About Climate Change. (Naomi Klein, The Intercept, 8-28-17) "[T]hese events have long been predicted by climate scientists. Warmer oceans throw up more powerful storms. Higher sea levels mean those storms surge into places they never reached before. Hotter weather leads to extremes of precipitation: long dry periods interrupted by massive snow or rain dumps, rather than the steadier predictable patterns most of us grew up with. The records being broken year after year — whether for drought, storm surges, wildfires, or just heat — are happening because the planet is markedly warmer than it has been since record-keeping began. Covering events like Harvey while ignoring those facts, failing to provide a platform to climate scientists who can make them plain, all while never mentioning President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords, fails in the most basic duty of journalism: to provide important facts and relevant context. It leaves the public with the false impression that these are disasters without root causes, which also means that nothing could have been done to prevent them (and that nothing can be done now to prevent them from getting much worse in the future)....What should it mean for the kind of infrastructure we build? What should it mean for the kind of energy we rely upon? (A question with jarring implications for the dominant industry in the region being hit hardest: oil and gas). And what does the hyper-vulnerability to the storm of the sick, poor, and elderly tell us about the kind of safety nets we need to weave, given the rocky future we have already locked in?"
How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps (Nadja Popovich, John Schwartz, and Tatiana Schlossber, NY Times, 3-21-17) Americans overwhelmingly believe that global warming is happening, and that carbon emissions should be scaled back. But fewer are sure that the changes will harm them personally. New data released by the Yale Program on Climate Communication gives the most detailed view yet of public opinion on global warming.
Inside Climate News (a Pulitzer Prize-winning, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment)
When Is It Time to Retreat from Climate Change? ( Michelle Nijhuis, New Yorker, 3-27-17) Discusses communities that undertook a collective retreat from the effects of climate change, in what disaster experts call managed retreat—abandoning areas vulnerable to floods, tsunamis, and rapid erosion. 'While managed retreat is not always the right choice for communities threatened by climate change, both Katharine Mach and Miyuki Hino said that it may be the right choice more often than we’re willing to admit, and they hope that their analysis will lead to its more forthright consideration. Well more than a hundred million people are expected to face displacement by rising seas before the end of the century. “We’re going to have to think really hard about how and where it happens, who moves and who stays, and whose values matter most,” Mach said. “In so many ways, it’s a perfect unfolding of both the tensions and the opportunities in adaptation.”'
How To Convince Conservative Christians That Global Warming Is Real (Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, 5-2-14) Millions of Americans are evangelical Christians. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe is persuading them that our planet is in peril.
How to talk climate change with Evangelical Christians Katharine Hayhoe convinces her fellow Evangelical Christians that climate change is real by appealing to their shared religious beliefs.
Lyme disease and climate change: Research roundup (David Trilling, Journalist's Resource, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, 7-25-17) How is climate change a factor in the spread of Lyme disease? "Ticks are delicate little bugs. They don’t like freezing or getting too dry. Mild winters help them survive; their eggs hatch sooner, lengthening the feeding and molting season. Deer help them move further north into areas where cooler temperatures would have once killed them. “Deer ticks are mostly active when temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and they thrive in areas with at least 85 percent humidity. Thus, warming temperatures associated with climate change are projected to increase the range of suitable tick habitat and are therefore one of multiple factors driving the observed spread of Lyme disease,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which sees the spread of Lyme as an indicator of climate change."
The reluctant geoengineer (Matt Watson, who came to my attention through NPR story Turning to Scientists to Engineer a Cooler Climate (All Things Considered 10-20-13)
Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s Tale (New York Times, 11-11-17) The Texas city’s response to a powerful storm says much about polarized visions of the country and diverging attitudes toward cities, race, liberty and science. See also Climate, Power, Money And Sorrow: Lessons Of Hurricane Harvey (Adam Frank, NPR, 9-6-17) "Katrina, Sandy and, now, Harvey — with each of these powerful storms we get a view into how a changing climate may play out in the real world beyond arguments and abstractions. What it's always been about are the truly awesome powers inherent to planets and the real human consequences of altering the balance of those powers. Luckily, there's still time to marshal our own great and creative powers and chart a saner course."
Why conservative Christians don’t believe in climate change (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2015) From the Abstract: "An analysis of resolutions and campaigns by evangelicals over the past 40 years shows that anti-environmentalism within conservative Christianity stems from fears that “stewardship” of God’s creation is drifting toward neo-pagan nature worship, and from apocalyptic beliefs about “end times” that make it pointless to worry about global warming."
Our Climate Change And Health “Moment”: How Philanthropy Can Help (Matt James, Health Affairs, 3-20-17) Interesting links.
Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (NASA, selected resources from U.S. government organizations provide information about options for responding to climate change).
Climate education resources (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA)
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit (NOAA)
"Life would be tragic if it weren't funny." ~ Stephen Hawking
[Back to Top]

Blogs and news for medical, health, and science writers

ACES Too High News (ACES = Adverse Childhood Experiences)
Aetiology (Sb, Scienceblogs) discussing causes, origins, evolution and implications of disease and other phenomenon)
AGU blogs (American Geophysical Union's excellent community of earth and space science blogs)
All About Health (Democrat & Chronicle)
Alltop (health) (links to five most recent stories of health news sites and blogs)
AMA Style Insider
American Health Scare (How the healthcare industry's scare tactics have screwed up our economy — and our future)
Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories (William Heisel, investigative health reporting, one of several health beat blogs at USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism)
Autism News Beat (an evidence-based resource for journalists)
Bad Medicine (the dubious, bad and sometimes frankly lunatic developments in the medical world). Ben Goldacre's column from The Guardian, covering media misrepresentations of science, with a particular focus on medicine--with a forum. Listen to his TED talk, Battling Bad Science.
Best 50 Medical Technology Blogs (Forensic Science)
Better Health
Black Triangle , Posts for which are still there, but it has morphed to Anthony Cox (pharmacist academic)
A Blog Around the Clock (Scientific American)
Boston Health News
Celebrity Diagnosis
Center for Health Journalism (USC Annenberg)
Charles Ornstein's Morning Health Reads (subscribe, Nuzzel). One day's read brought this gem: In the U.S. market for human bodies, anyone can sell the donated dead.
The Chart (Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN)
Check Up (, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Citizens for Patient Safety
Covering Health (Association of Health Care Journalists, with excellent links to health beats in newspapers, blogs, etc.--including this Health News blogroll)
CJR's The Observatory (a lens on the science press)
Closer to Truth (TV series) Cosmos. Consciousness. Meaning. Scientists and philosophers debate the vital ideas of existence, the deepest questions. Closer to Truth discusses life's most essential topics and encourages the conversation to continue. Special Open Door Forums to independently discuss new and important program topics
Correcting the AIDS Lies (AIDS dissent is largely based on misinformation and misunderstanding--collating all relevant facts so that no one need die of ignorance)
Cracking Health Costs
David Antrobus, whose tweet of a funny cartoon led me to this " entry, which would certainly lead me to hire him)
DC's Improbable Science (truth, falsehood and evidence: investigations of dubious and dishonest science)
Denialism blog (Mark Hoofnagle, Science Blogs). Don't mistake denialism for debate.
Diabetes Mine
Disrupted Physician (The Physician Wellness Movement and Illegitimate Authority: The Need for Revolt and Reconstruction)
The Doctor Blog (ZocDoc)
Dr. Len's Cancer Blog
DoubleXScience, bringing science to the woman in you, whoever she is, whatever she does. Sections: biology, book reviews, chemistry, health, mental illness, notable women, pregnancy, physics, pregnancy 101, science education, everything else. Sample: The Girls of Atomic City (book review by Chris Gunter) The unbelievable true story of young women during World War II who worked in a secret city dedicated to making fuel for the first atomic bomb—only they didn’t know that.
Educate the Young And on occasion...regulate the old.
Elaine Shattner, MD (Forbes blog, covers the culture and science of cancer and health)
Embargo Watch (Ivan Oransky, MD, keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage)
Engaging the Patient
FDAWebView (Jim Dickinson's webview/​review/​update--this interactive website that watches the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with email bulletins and archive of old regulatory, legal, policy, and scientific news)
Essential medical links for patients, families, caregivers, reporters
First Opinion (STAT) Perspective and commentary from experts around the world
Forensic Science Technician blog
Freelance Medical Writing
Gastropod (looks at food through the lens of science and history)
Good e-resources for patients and patient advocates
Grand Rounds, a weekly summary of the best health blog posts on the Internet, available at Better Health and at
Health (The Atlantic blogs on body, family, food, mind, public, sex)
Health Affairs (blog of the journal of health policy thought and research)
Health (STAT) The latest developments affecting patients and practitioners
Health & Wellness (Los Angeles Times)
Health Beat (Maggie Mahar) Health articles, nutritional facts, and fitness tips
Healthcare Savvy (WBUR)
The Health Care Blog
Health Care Renewal Addressing threats to health care's core values, especially those stemming from concentration and abuse of power. Advocating for accountability, integrity, transparency, honesty and ethics in leadership and governance of health care.
Health Navigator (NY Times selective guide to health and medical sites on the Internet)
Health News Blogs (Association of Health Care Journalists blogroll)
HealthNewsReview: Your Health news watchdog (excellent health news watchdog blog, offering perspective and opinion, by Gary Schwitzer and others). See also's Story Reviews (systematic, criteria-driven critiques of news stories and other media messages that may affect the public dialogue about health care).
Impatient: Helping make the health care system work for you (KPCC, Southern California Public Radio--listen live)
The Incidental Economist (Aaron E. Carroll's health services research blog)
Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement
In the Lab (STAT) Putting the latest scientific research under the microscope
In the Pipeline
JAMA Forum news
**** Kaiser Health News (KHN, an editorially independent news organization dedicated to providing excellent, high-quality coverage of health care policy and politics)
Karmanos Conquers Cancer
KevinMD (physicians' voices)
Undark . Truth. Beauty. Science.
Living with Cancer (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Liz Szabo's Twitter feed is great for following health and medical news and stories
MD Whistleblower
MedCityNews (business of innovation in healthcare)
medGadget (emerging medical technologies)
Medical Lessons
Medical Watchdog ("we cover the latest news in defective medical devices and drugs and how people can fight for their rights when big drug companies fail to protect"
A Medical Writer's Musings on Medicine, Health Care, and the Writing Life (Debra Gordon)
Medical Writing Industry (blog for medical writers and editors in the pharmaceutical industry)
Medical Writing, Editing and Grantsmanship
Medical Matters (John Schumann, Public Radio Tulsa, old program about health care and the human condition)
Medicine Matters (Vancouver Sun, BC)
MedPageToday (geared to physicians; evaluates the evidence, discloses financial conflicts of interest the authors report)
Medscape blogs
MEDShadow (balancing drug risks & benefits)
Med Student's t-Test (a medical/​graduate student's musings on medicine and science, with occasional rants about quackery)
Money (STAT) The business behind science, medicine, and the drug industry
Musings of a Distractible Mind (Dr. Rob Lambert)
National Association of Science Writers (NASW) blogs
Neurologica your daily fix of neuroscience, skepticism, and analytical thinking)
News@​JAMA (the JAMA forum)
The New York Times Health News
Notes from Dr. RW (hospital resources and more)
Not Running a Hospital (former hospital CEO Paul Levy) Excellent blogroll in several categories.
Off the Charts (American Journal of Nursing)
Online-resources for patients/​consumers/​patient advocates/​caregivers
Only Human (Virginia Hughes, National Geographic)
••••The Open Notebook (the story behind the best science stories). Great material. See for example behind-the-story interviews , elements of craft, natural habitat (where science writers share their working spaces -- offices, spare bedrooms, coffee shops, hammocks -- and the accoutrements that help them do their work), and other resources.
Patient POV (Laura Newman)
Patients sharing info about health care
Pharmalot (STAT blog) Ed Silverman, Taking stock of the drug industry, from the lab to the medicine chest
Pharmed Out (Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman), an independent, publicly funded project that empowers physicians to identify and counter inappropriate pharmaceutical promotion practices.
Phenomena (a science salon hosted by National Geographic)
Politics (STAT) Tracking how politics and policy intersect with science and health care
PLoS blogs (Public Library of Science)
Prepared Patient (Center for Advancing Health) designed to help people find good care and make the most of it, based on experts' findings, recent scientific findings, and patients' experiences. (No advertising or corporate sponsorship.)
The ProPublica Nerd Blog, a place to talk about what programmer-journalists at ProPublica are working on, announce newly-launched news applications, and to hear from technically-minded readers, as well as our fellow nerdy journalists. A sample project: Treatment Tracker: The Doctors and Services in Medicare Part B
Pulse (voices from the heart of medicine -- personal accounts of illness and healing)

The Quackometer (debunking quack medicine)
The reluctant geoengineer (Matt Watson, who came to my attention through NPR story Turning to Scientists to Engineer a Cooler Climate (All Things Considered 10-20-13)
Remaking Health Care (Center for Health Journalism)
Respectful Insolence (a.k.a. "Orac knows, ScienceBlogs). Against quackery etc.
Reporting on Health blogs (California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, about blogging, health journalism, and storytelling)
--William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories
--The Reporting on Health Daily Briefing
-- Doc Gurley's Urban Health Beat (practicing medicine on the margins of society, and what we can learn from it)
Retraction Watch (tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process)
Research Blogging (reports on peer-reviewed research)
Retraction Watch , founded and run by Ivan Oransky, the executive editor at Reuters Health, and Adam Marcus, the managing editor of Anesthesiology News, on which they track the retraction of scientific papers (to help make public research fraud, made-up data, and erroneous or false research)
Robert Wood Johnson blogs
Rubor, Dolor, Calor, Tumor (Mark Crislip practices in infectious diseases)
Science-Based Medicine (blog exploring issues and controversies in science and medicine, including dubious medical, nutritional, and related approaches to medical diagnosis, treatment, etc.). Along the same lines see excellent page of links to medical blogs, medical sites, recommended sites, and skeptical and science blogs
Science-based pharmacy (turning an eye on the profession, separating fact from fiction on both sides of the counter)
Science Blogs (The Guardian)
Science Blogs
Science blogs (Wired)
Scientific American blogs
Shots (health news from NPR)
Shrink Talk
Singularity Hub
Terra Sigillata (about medicinal agents, not all of which are drugs)
Science careers blog (Science, various contributors)
Science Daily
Science Online (Conversation, Community, & Connections at the Intersection of Science & the Web)
Science Roll (Dr Bertalan Meskó's journey in Genetics PHD and medicine through Web 2.0--medical education, medical technology, e-learning and virtual medicine)
Scientific American blogs (by latest blog posts) and Scientific American blog network (with links to blogs in categories: MIND blogs, From Our Network. For example: Anthropology in Practice, The Artful Amoeba , History of Geology, and The Primate Diaries
Scholarly Open Access (Jeffrey Beall, Critical analysis of scholarly open access). Noted for Beall's List of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers. Read Declan Butler's article in Nature: Investigating journals: The dark side of publishing (3-27-13) "The explosion in open-access publishing has fuelled the rise of questionable operators."
Science Seeker (science news from science newsmakers)
Secrets of Good Science Writing (excellent Guardian blog, in honor of the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize , sponsored by the Guardian and the Observer).
Shrink Rap (for psychiatrists by psychiatrists) and now a book: Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Explain Their Work by Dinah Miller, Annette Hanson, and Steven Roy Daviss. Listen to them interviewed on Talk of the Nation (NPR)
Skeptical Scalpel
Speaking of Medicine (PLOS Medical Journals' community blog)
STAT Reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine. For $25/​mo. you can subscribe to STAT Plus (which gives you "access to exclusive, in-depth pharma, biotech, business, and policy coverage, keeping you on top of what’s happening in the industry — as it happens."
TED Blog
TedMed and TEDMED Talks (video)
This May Hurt a Bit (Shara Yurkiewicz, Scientific American, The intuitions, insights, and growing pains of a medical student)
Toolkit for journalists and consumers ( See also Just for journalists: Tips and case studies for writing about health care
Top 50 Public Health Blogs (The Science of Health blog, 1-13-10)
Top 25 Forensic Science Blogs of 2012 (editors, Top Criminal Justice Degrees blog, 1-31-13)
Tracker (or Tracker 2.0, a Knight Science Journalism Program), turning "a discerning eye on science journalism — the good, the bad, and the occasionally mystifying — with the hope that our analyses will help to keep science writing vibrant, alive, and free from temptation."
UnBreak Your Health (Alan E. Smith, "the complete reference guide to complementary and alternative health therapies"). "Did you catch the news last week that life expectancy in America actually declined last year?...Did you know we rank BELOW Cypress, New Zealand and Costa Rica? I won't even mention the European countries." (12-10-16)
Undark . Truth. Beauty. Science. MIT's Knight Science Journalism''s online magazine, called Undark "as a signal to readers that our magazine will explore science not just as a 'gee-whiz' phenomenon, but as a frequently wondrous, sometimes contentious, and occasionally troubling byproduct of human culture."
The Upshot (data-driven blog on politics, policy and economic analysis, NY Times)
The Vaccine Times
Vital Signs ( blog in defense of science-based health care)
The Watchdogs (Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky, STAT: Keeping an eye on misconduct, fraud, and scientific integrity)
Well (NY Times blog)
White Coat Underground (doctoring in real life)
Women and Science Blogging (Daniel Lende, Neuranthropology, PLoS blog, 1-27-11) Which refers us to Even when we want something, we need to hide it (Kate Clancy, Context and Variation) and I’ve never been very good at hiding (Christie Wilcox, Observations of a Nerd).
[Back to Top]

Podcasts about health, healthcare, and medicine
Advisory Board--Daily Briefings podcasts
Cancer podcasts (CDC)
HealthCetera podcasts , an evidence-based news, analysis and commentary program about healthcare and health policy. that started out on land radio and migrated online as a podcast.
The Lancet
Medicine Podcasts (lots of them)
Medicine Podcasts (lots of them)
Mindful Meditations (UCLA)
NIH podcasts and videocasts archive
Science Podcasts
The Weeds (Vox, semiweekly policy podcast, hosted by Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff, and Matthew Yglesias.
What the Health? (Kaiser Health News podcast)
45 Awesome Podcasts For Public Health Students & Professionals
15 Healthcare Podcasts (Advanced Data Systems Corps)
[Back to Top]

Problems covering government agencies

A problem for journalists these days, especially those covering the federal government, is that many agencies insist that journalists go through public information officers (PIOs) to interview government staff. This layer of bureaucracy slows down and often seems an effort to divert the open flow of information. Maybe it's the lawyers who are advising: Be careful what you say, fearing litigation? Some of the following pieces are about the roadblocks to open communication with the public that journalists are experiencing. It's YOUR government. Demand the open flow of information that helps define a democracy.
Our job isn't to spin news (Sandra Sanchez, Commentary, The Monitor, 9-29-17) Op-ed emphasizing that it is not journalists' jobs to "spin" news for government officials
Today’s federal agencies are ‘highly message-controlled.’ Here’s what that means for health reporting (Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Journalism Review, 11-10-15)
Talk to the Hand (Jenni Bergal, Nieman Reports, Spring 2014) Public health reporters say federal agencies are restricting access and information, limiting their ability to cover crucial health issues
For successful information requests, be familiar with guidelines for public affairs staff of the Department of Health and Human Services (Irene M. Wielawski, Covering Health, 7-27-15). See earlier piece: HHS releases guidelines for handling media requests (Pia Christensen, Covering Health, 9-22-11)
A Game of Chicken: Inside Salmonella (Lynne Terry, Watchdog, The Oregonian, 5-1-15)
FDA Whistleblower Report (FDAWebView). "This page is reserved for individual FDA employees who wish to report management abuse in the interest of government integrity and public health. Information entered here will be inaccessible to all persons other than the Editor of Dickinson's FDA Webview. Any information that might identify you will be deleted before any use is made of this information.
Activists Rush to Save Government Science Data — If They Can Find It (Amy Harmon, NY Times, 3-6-17). I became aware of this story through InfoDocket (Library Journal).
[Back to Top]


Embargo on press releases, rationale for (PLoS). Breaking an embargo is a journalistic no-no, with good reason.
Embargo Watch (Ivan Oransky, keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage)
Embargoes and more: How to get my attention (and attention from other journalists) in a wired world (Ivan Oransky's tips at a Council of Science Editors meeting, 2011), which leads to Oransky's interesting explanation and criticism of the Ingelfinger Rule ("the policy by which journals refuse to publish anything that’s appeared in the mainstream press or in other journals" though they still publish authors who self-plagiarize).
The worst abuse of an embargo this medical journalist has ever seen (Larry Husten, KevinMD, 9-12-11)
Embargoes Master List (Robin Lloyd, Third Turn)
[Back to Top]

Medical ghostwriting (aka collaboration)

Medical writers who collaborate with scientists are often viewed as ghostwriters--which they are, if their role is not disclosed publicly, as it should be. Discussions of the ethics and practical realities of professional writers and medical writing include the following:
The Haunting of Medical Journals: How Ghostwriting Sold “HRT” (Adriane J. Fugh-Berman, PLoS Med 7(9): e1000335, 9-7-10). Read the response by Adam Jacobs of the European Medical Writers Association.
Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Ghostwriting (Project on Government Oversight, POGO, 8-10-11)
Ethical Editing – Ghostwriting is an unhealthy practice (Ernesto Spinak, SciELO in Perspective, 1-16-14) The term Ghostwriter is defined as a professional writer who is employed to write works for which he will receive no official credit but will instead remain anonymous. He deplores "paper-writing factories" that crank out essays for students; ghostwriting of doctoral theses; and ghostwriting of biomedical research papers. "It can happen that a group of researchers may contract a professional writer to edit a document based on original research data, but it is the researchers who continue to maintain control of the written work by blocking marketing messages that are favorable to companies or products." Ethical problems arise, as when "pharmaceutical companies and the industries which produce medical technology may frequently distort the results produced by clinical trials. They may also not be impartial. These articles prepared by medical writers hired by the industries are then given to certain ;invited authors' who put their name to them in return for payment." ("Close to 50% of the publications on drugs used in psychiatry that are still under patent were written by ghostwriters.")
Can Ghostwriting Be Considered Plagiarism? (David Rothschild, iThenticate, 8-17-11)

What Should Be Done To Tackle Ghostwriting in the Medical Literature? (Peter C Gøtzsche, Jerome P Kassirer, Karen L Woolley, Elizabeth Wager, Adam Jacobs, Art Gertel, Cindy Hamilton, in PLoS, 2-3-09
Ghost Management: How Much of the Medical Literature Is Shaped Behind the Scenes by the Pharmaceutical Industry? (Sergio Sismondo, PLoS Med 4(9): e286, 9-25-07)
Revealed: how drug firms 'hoodwink' medical journals (Antony Barnett, The Observer, 12-7-03). Pharmaceutical giants hire ghostwriters to produce articles - then put doctors' names on them
Evidence in Vioxx Suits Shows Intervention by Merck Officials (Alex Berenson, NY Times, 4-24-05)
Good Publication Practice for Pharmaceutical Companies Guidelines (Envision Pharma, 2006)
See much fuller set of links to articles on medical ghostwriting, in a section on Collaboration and ghostwriting
See also, under Ethics: Medical ghostwriting and ethical issues in medical publishing (another full set of links--clearly a rich subject) .
[Back to Top]

Narrative structure in science and medical writing

Story Time (Rose Jacobs, Chronicle of Higher Education blog, 6-6-14). The traditional "nut graf" structure didn't help her engineering student write coherently, so 'I’ve been doing with my student what I did with those journalists: Demanding a narrative structure—stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end; stories with five Shakespearean acts; stories whose main points are made two-thirds of the way through—not in the first three paragraphs. Stories, in other words, with a structure we learn in childhood and that remains familiar throughout our lives....Research papers tell great stories—movements from what we used to know to what we know now and, in the middle, how we learned it. They’re plays in three acts where the subject is discovery."
Telling science stories…wait, what’s a “story”? (Bora Zivkovic, A Blog Around the Clock, 7-13-11). " In the Inverted Pyramid approach to journalism, the first couple of sentences (the “lede”) provide the next most important information, and so on, with the least important stuff at the end. In many ways, it is the opposite of a narrative – the punch-line goes first, the build-up after. The beauty of the Inverted Pyramid for the writers and editors is that any article can be chopped up and made shorter....You can’t do that with a narrative, where clues can be hidden all along the way, and the grand solution comes close to the end."
All about Stories: How to Tell Them, How They're Changing, and What They Have to Do with Science (Lena Groeger and Perrin Ireland, Scientific American, 6-6-11) Report on what a panel of science journalists said about how the Web is shaping and changing how stories are told. Carl Zimmer, Andy Revkin, Bora Zivkovic, Seth Mnookin, and Emily Bell talk about "everything from journalistic innovation to dealing with science (and anti-science) controversies, the role of science blogging to problems with peer-reviewed literature and pay walls, the changing nature of news consumption to the meaning of 'story.'" For example: "Don't just think of [blogging] as an outflow mechanism, this is a tool which will allow you to find collaborators, allow you to shape ideas and disseminate them as well." -Andy Revkin. "It might be harder to get jobs, but it's the most extraordinary time to be doing this." - Emily Bell. "Another arena that's shifting in the same way as print journalism is peer reviewed literature." - Carl Zimmer. "There have been a slew of recent examples of high profile papers that initially got a lot of traction in the mainstream media, but were eventually exposed to be full of errors. While the blogosphere can quickly act as a corrective, traditional science journals are still 'ossified in their response,' said Zimmer."
Explaining Science (Gerard Piel, reported by Norman Bauman on his website -- December 2001.) Do a search and find this piece way down on the web page. "The narrative is the way to do exposition," said Piel. "That's the most painless way to explain." And Scientific American, of which he was the retired publisher, was "in the business of understanding, not information."
Natural Narratives by Michael Pollan (Nieman Storyboard 2-16-07: Seven principles for writing about nature and science in ways that depart from the usual)
Narrative Matters: The Power of the Personal Essay in Health Policy ed. by Fitzhugh Mullan, Ellen Ficken, and Kyna Rubin (a collection of personal stories of patients, physicians, policy makers, and others whose writings humanize health policy issues, drawn from the popular "Narrative Matters" column in the journal Health Affairs.
Science & Story: The Art of Communicating Science Across All Media . at the World Science Festival in New York City, there was an entire day devoted to science story-telling, Presented in collaboration with the Paley Center for Media. Much material here and on the World Science Festival blog . See also some webcasts.
Penny Bailey on science writing: 'You need to know how to tell a good story'
The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains (Leo Widrich, Lifehacker, 12-5-12)
Narrative Medicine. Narrative Medicine workshops provide narrative training with stories of illness to enable "practitioners to comprehend patients’ experiences and to understand what they themselves undergo as clinicians." Here is a pageful of links to podcasts of Narrative Medicine Rounds, lectures or readings presented by scholars, clinicians, or writers engaged in work at the interface between narrative and health care. Rounds are held on the first Wednesday of each month from 5 to 6:30 pm in the Columbia University Medical Center Faculty Club, followed by a reception. Rounds are free and open to the public. Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner of Oral History Productions took and recommends an excellent intensive four-day workshop on Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. And here are some books on the subject: Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness by Rita Charon; Narrative Medicine: The Use of History and Story in the Healing Process by Lewis Mehl-Medrona author of Coyote Wisdom: Healing Power in Native American Stories ; Psychoanalysis and Narrative Medicine, ed. Peter L. Rudnytsky and Rita Charon.
Narrative medicine and medical narrative (blogs, books, and other wonderful material on the subject--Pat McNees's links)
[Back to Top]

Getting the numbers right

Ask Dr. Math (The Math Forum, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). A question-and-answer service aimed at math students but others can use it to ask questions specifically about math and math problems.
Bars and Pies Make Better Desserts Than Figures (Thomas M. Annesley, Clinical Chemistry, Aug 2010)
Calculators and converters (online, for $$ and otherwise)
Calendars, perpetual calendars, calendar converters, and time converters
Health Spending Explorer (Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker)
Majority, Plurality, and History (Andy Hollandbeck, Copyediting, 11-9-16) Majority vs. Plurality: The magic number of electoral votes a presidential candidate must win to achieve a majority — that is, 50 percent or more — is 270. But how they get those electoral votes from states doesn’t necessarily involve majorities.
Math and statistics resources (Writers and Editors section on search engines)
Math for Journalists: Help with Numbers (Poynter's News University). Free self-directed three-hour online course, which covers everything from reducing fractions and other math essentials to topics specifically for journalists, such as calculating cost of living and estimating crowd sizes. The goal: to make routine math routine.
Metric prefixes (Wikipedia) What do exa-, peta-, tera-, mega-, kilo-, milli-, micro-, etc. mean?
NewsNumbers.Info ( a reporter's guide to using numbers for better reporting and editing--for example, calculating property taxes, interpreting workforce numbers, using U.S. Census data correctly, and reporting on the cost of college sports (site created by Rich Exner, a data analysis editor at
Newsroom Math Crib Sheet (Steve Doig, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University)
Numbers and statistics glossary (PDF, Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice) Brings clarity to differences between absolute risk, absolute risk reduction, number needed to treat (NNT), relative risk, relative risk reduction (numbers) and (statistics) p value, confidence interval, survival, and mortality.
Number Watch (monitoring and correcting misleading scary numbers)
Percentages in Text (Mark Allen, Copyediting, 11-8-16)
STATS (a collaboration between Sense About Science USA and the American Statistical Association) Aims to improve statistical literacy among journalists, academic journal editors, and researchers; examines how numbers are distorted and statistics are misunderstood in the media and in society.
Q&As about numbers (Chicago Manual of Style, online)
Statistics Every Writer Should Know (
STAT Politics Tracking how politics and policy intersect with science and health care
Two Decimal Places in a Percentage Raises a Flag (Copyediting, 9-29-13) We don’t have all the information, so it could be right; but it’s probably wrong.
Understanding and Interpreting Polls (Poynter's News University) Free self-directed, three-hour course which teaches journalists how to analyze survey data and determine the legitimacy of a poll.
Understanding Uncertainty, Animations, etc. Animations explaining risk, survival, etc,)
Helpful books on news and numbers
A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley
News and Numbers: A Writer's Guide to Statistics by Victor Cohn and Lewis Cope with Deborah Cohn Runkle
Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics by Steven Woloshin, Lisa M. Schwartz, and H. Gilbert Welch
Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You by Randall Bolten
Extra credit

Behind the numbers: getting statistics right for men with prostate cancer (Amy Dyer, Prostate Cancer UK, 9-16-14)
$2.6 Billion to Develop a Drug? New Estimate Makes Questionable Assumptions (Aaron E. Carroll, The Upshot, NY Times, 11-18-14) Tufts says $2.6 billion, Public Citizen (Ralph Nader's advocacy group says $150 million. Carroll explains why they came to different numbers. Note: The Tufts Center is funded, to a large extent, by the pharmaceutical industry.) See also Drugs, Big Pharma, conflicts of interest, and why U.S. patients pay too much for medication
Scientists Are About to Officially Change What a Kilogram Is (Mike McRae, Science Alert, 7-1-17)
[Back to Top]

Miscellaneous resources for science and medical writers

Everything that didn't fit into specific categories above.

Advice for Grad Students (Greg Mankiw, 5-24-06)
Advice for Aspiring Economists (Greg Mankiw, 5-23-06)
The AP Learns to Talk About Addiction. Will Other Media Follow? (Maia Szalavitz, UnDark, 6-6-17) The influential stylebook discards ‘addict’ and ‘alcoholic’ for nonjudgmental language that recognizes addiction as a medical disorder. “Addict” should no longer be used as a noun. “Instead,” the stylebook says, “choose phrasing like ‘he was addicted.’” In short, separate the person from the disease. "Language is complicated and often slow to change — and for a group that has been criminalized, fighting stigma and misinformation is a constant struggle. But when the media start treating people with addiction with the same respect that they use for other patients, perhaps the rest of America will start to accept that addiction is a medical problem and that moralizing and punishment have failed." On the same message: Journalists, Stop Using Words Like Addict and Drug Abuser (Zachary Siegel, Slate, 6-6-17) Being called an “addict” defines my humanity with one small facet of my identity, essentially erasing the rest of me.
Notable Narrative: The Cincinnati Enquirer’s stunning “Seven Days of Heroin” (Katia Savchuk, Nieman Storyboard, 9-25-17) As far as Terry DeMio knows, she’s the only journalist in the country with the title “heroin reporter.” She’s been covering the opioid epidemic for The Cincinnati Enquirer for five years, including two on the beat full time. Over one week in July, the paper sent out more than 60 reporters, photographers and videographers to document the impact of heroin in Greater Cincinnati. “We just wanted to show people: This is what a heroin epidemic looks like.” Listen: SEVEN DAYS OF HEROIN: 911 calls for overdoses at a library and at a park (Video,, 9-8-17) 911 calls for overdoses Monday, July 10 at the Covedale Library and Rapid Run Park in Cincinnati.
Award-winning series can help you better understand medical studies (Gara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 12-6-16) Winners of the 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards included science journalist Christie Aschwanden of FiveThirtyEight, who received the Silver Award in the online category for a three-part series that every health journalist would do well to read, reread and bookmark.
---Science Isn't Broken, in which she described p-hacking, study biases and other important concepts in understanding research
---You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition, which "used the absurdity of a link found in one study between eating cabbage and having an innie belly button to illustrate potential problems in observational studies about nutrition." "She similarly describes the difficulty in prospective studies of tracking food, the challenge of too many variables and other limitations of nutrition studies, including the fact that “We expect far too much from them,” Aschwanden writes. “We want to answer questions like, what’s healthier, butter or margarine? Can eating blueberries keep my mind sharp? Will bacon give me colon cancer? But observational studies using memory-based measures of dietary intake are tools too crude to provide answers with this level of granularity.”
---Failure Is Moving Science Forward in which she 'explored the “reproducibility crisis” in science and why some real effects may not appear in studies that attempt to reproduce them. For health journalists in particular, this story is perhaps the most important of the three. Understanding replication and reproducibility are essential to providing context in stories about the latest study. In fact, her subsection “When studies conflict, which is right?” will be helpful to journalists frustrated with covering issues where the study findings seem to flip back and forth with each successive study.' “The thing to keep in mind is that no single study provides definitive evidence,” she wrote.

Advice for Science Writers from Science Writers, Maryn McKenna's column about (and highlights from) a long blog Ed Yong opened up to the science-writing community: On the Origin of Science Writers. On Yong's blog you can read 146 personal accounts of how people got into science writing, with advice to those just starting in the field. Also on Yong's Discover blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, check out his amusing analysis of the science writing process.

AHCJ links to resources for health care journalists (Association of Health Care Journalists)

Alternative Income Sources for Writers, Norman Bauman's summary of an ASJA meeting on the subject in 2002, may be helpful, and be sure to see the material he added to his website: Catherine E. Oliver's on what's required for technical writing. Norman's other reports include How to find and price medical writing jobs (1999). For more such summaries, including an interesting piece on text retrieval and search engines, go to Bauman's website, Medical Writing in New York. See, for example, this thoughtful long piece on redesigning science magazines.

Are you an editor or a writer? How do you know? What are the crucial differences between the two specializations? The question arose when Slate science editor Laura Helmuth was visiting a class that Ann Finkbeiner teaches at the graduate program in science writing at Johns Hopkins University. Ann, hoping to help her students figure out whether they were natively editors or natively writers, asked Laura about the difference between writers and editors. Together they asked several science writers. editors, and writer-editors to describe the differences.
Are you an editor or a writer? Part I: The writers. (posted by Christie Aschwanden, The Open Notebook, 1-16-13).
Are you an editor or a writer? Part II: The editors. (posted by Christie Aschwanden, The Open Notebook, 1-16-13).

CDC Learning Network helps you locate learning products and resources from across the public health community.

Center for Public Engagement with Science & Technology. Providing scientists and scientific institutions with the resources they need to have meaningful conversations with the public.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

China’s problem with fake research papers (Frank Ching, Globe and Mail, 8-11-17)

Citation-boosting episode leads to editors’ resignations, university investigation (Retraction Watch, 3-3-17) Series of items about "citation cartel" and an editor violating ethical guideline: “any manipulation of citations (e.g. including citations not contributing to a manuscript’s scientific content, citations solely aiming at increasing an author’s or a journal’s citations) is regarded as scientific malpractice.”

Clinical trials
Trial and Error (Naomi Elster, Variables/​Essays and Opinions, Undark, 4-25-16). Should clinical trials be better regulated? Definitely. Should they be regulated out of existence? Definitely not.
Checking out clinical trials (Coping with Cancer,

The Cochrane Collaboration , an international organization that helps people make well-informed decisions about healthcare and health policy by preparing and maintaining high quality systematic reviews

CONSORT statement. Guidelines in the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) statement are used worldwide to improve the transparent reporting of randomized, controlled trials.

Convert Me (various online conversion charts)

Cool/​nifty versus funny-smelling/​fishy stories: Why we need both kinds (David Dobbs, Neuron Culture, Wired, 3-16-10)

Coping with cancer and critical illness

Coping with chronic, rare, and invisible diseases, disorders, and disabilities

Core Topics in Health Journalism (Association of Health Care Journalists, AHCJ). Invaluable sections for journalists writing about medicine and health care
Health Reform
Oral Health
Medical Studies
Social Determinants and Disparities
Health information technology

Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines by Steve Talbott, as reviewed by Richard Mateosian for IEEE Micro, Thinking About Technology. Are we giving up too much of our humanity to technology?

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Directory of thousands of open access, peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journals (which do not charge readers or their institutions for access), with link to journals' websites.

Does it pay to know your Myers-Briggs type? (Washington Post graphic on the various Myers-Briggs types). Corporate America, the government and universities think so. They spend millions of dollars each year giving workers and students the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (based on Carl Jung’s work in psychological typology) to steer training programs and career goals. This graphic shows the 16 types and explains them in context of the Myers-Briggs philosophy. Here's the interesting companion article by Lillian Cunningham (Washington Post, 12-14-12)

The End of Science Writing by Jon Franklin (Alfred and Julia Hill Lecture, 1997)

Environmental Health News and archives.

Equipment and Software for Medical Writers (PDF, a compilation of collective wisdom from subscribers to The Hittlist). Emma Hitt teaches a six-week course in medical writing.

EurekAlert. Science news that's just a click away. Portals for the public, reporters, and embargoes news; a resource for reporters,a tool for public information officers (PIOs). A public service project of the nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science. EurekAlert Links & Resources

European Guide to Science Journalism Training (2010)

Evaluating an Assertion (Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth, CECS)

The Fallacy Files (analysis of various logical fallacies)

FAQ for new and aspiring science writers (National Association of Science Writers)

FDA Approved Prescription Drug Information (big database of information on prescription drugs)

**A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers, edited by Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson, and Robin Marantz Henig. For an interesting interview on becoming a science writer, listen to Robin Marantz Henig (Longform podcast episode 193, interviewed by Evan Ratliff, May 2016)

‘The Finkbeiner Test’ (Curtis Brainard, CJR, 3-22-13) Seven rules to avoid gratuitous gender profiles of female scientists.

FrameWorks Institute Changing the conversation on social issues. Mapping the gaps on elder abuse. Framing immigration reform. How to frame informal STEM learning for maximum effect. Building new narrative on human services. Communicating the complex. Gender and justice. Etc.

A Framework for Educating Health Professionals to Address the Social Determinants of Health (download PDF version for free). National Academies Press. Scroll down to see more such titles, all of which sell for fairly high prices but at least most of which can be downloaded free in PDF versions.

The Future of Science Journalism, audio-recorded talks from a Knight-sponsored two-day symposium in Cambridge on where the field is heading.

Healthcare Hashtag Project . Discover where the healthcare conversations on Twitter are taking place, discover who to follow within your specialty or disease or on a specific topic, and find the best from conferences or moderated chats in real time or in archives (for example, there are lively discussions at #eldercarechat and there is a whole page on breast cancer hashtags). See
Hashtags by disease
Hashtags by conference

HIPAA and patient privacy
HIPAA Guide for the Newsroom (Pennsylvania News Media Association) The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) protects health insurance coverage for workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs. The Act also requires “covered entities” to protect the privacy of individuals’ medical information, and imposes significant penalties on those entities that violate the law.
A Reporter's Guide to Medical Privacy Law (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press). Topics covered include: What is HIPAA, What records are available under HIPPA, Health care journalists' access to hospitals curtailed under HIPAA, General access to hospitals, Attitudes toward privacy rules may change in times of disaster, Confusing laws keep information confidential on college campuses, etc.
HIPAA, electronic health records, and patient privacy

Hospice care and palliative care

How many interviews? (Jeanne Erdmann, Ask TON, TheOPENNotebook, 7-16-13)

How health statistics can mislead (Andrew Van Dam, Covering Health, AHCJ, 12-9-09)

How Much Should I Charge? (Writers and Editors)

How to break into science writing using your blog and social media (Bora Zivkovic, The SA Incubator, The next generation of science writers and journalists.Scientific American, 4-2-13). Excellent advice for aspiring science writers.

How to get your start in science writing, Ed Yong gathered responses to that question from 145 science writers; they were published in Discover Magazine as On the Origin of Science Writers

How to Research the Medical Literature About Cancer (how to use databases and online resources); How to access Medline and other medical databases,, and How to get basic information about your cancer online

How to write consistently boring scientific literature (PDF, Kaj Sand-Jensen, Boring Writing, 1-25-07)

H2ODotCon (water related pseudoscience fantasy and quackery, sorting legitimate claims about water from claims that various kinds of water reverse aging, prevent cancer, etc.)

Human Body Maps (HealthLine interactive online tool)

The Humdrum Events of Modern Medicine's Underbelly: A Guided Tour (Abigail Zuger, MD, in NY Times, reviews White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine by Carl Elliott (the pharmaceutical industry, of course).

Humor among peer reviewers. César Sánchez, in his blog Twisted Bacteria, quotes from the annual December issue of Environmental Microbiology, which features humorous quotes peer reviewers made while assessing manuscripts submitted to the journal.

ICJME Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly work in Medical Journals (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors). See also ICJME's Guiding Principles for the Development of Policies on Sharing Clinical Trials Data (January 2014)

In memory of Vera Rubin, the woman the Nobel Prize forgot (Rachel Feltman, Popular Science, 12-27-16) Vera Rubin, who essentially created a new field of astronomy by discovering dark matter, was a favorite to win the Nobel Prize in physics for years. But she never received her early-morning call from Stockholm. On Sunday, she died at the age of 88.... An argument frequently heard against Rubin's Nobel-worthiness is that dark matter is still technically theoretical. Some scientists are still working to come up with alternate theories to explain the behavior of the Universe....This would be a great argument, if not for the fact that the men who discovered dark energy—no less important than dark matter, but no less "theoretical" either—were honored with the prize in 2011. And their observations took place a good 20 years after Rubin did her work."
The Index of Banned Words (The Continually Updated Edition) (Carl Zimmer, The Loom, Discover, 11-30-09) An outgroup of a list of words he banned from his science writing class at Shoals Marine Lab. Starts with: Access (verb), And/​or (Logic gates do not belong in prose), Anthropogenic, Breakthrough (unless you are covering Principia Mathematica), and so on.
Instructions to Authors in the Health Sciences (Mulford Health Science Library, University of Toledo) links to websites that provide instructions to authors for over 6,000 journals in the health and life sciences.
• Journal Authors: Intellectual property landlords--or migrant workers? (Dan Carlinsky for ASJA). This article appears to be no longer online, but the title is so good I am keeping it here, as a place marker and a warning to journals that it could come back.
John Cochran's Writing Tips for Ph.D. Students (PDF, John Cochran, University of Chicago, 6-8-05)
Junk Food Science. Critical examinations of studies and news on food, weight, health and healthcare, and our world -- information mainstream media misses. Debunks popular myths, explains science, and exposes fraud that affects your health. Plus some fun food for thought. For readers not afraid to question and think critically to get to the truth.
Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues. Invaluable.
Kaiser Health News (KHN) (Must reading for keeping up with health care and medical news) Subscribe, health care journalists and writers!
The Knight Science Journalism Tracker & Robin Williams (Tabitha M. Powledge, On Science blogs, 8-15-14) RIP Knight Science Journalism Tracker, sort of...

Knight Science Journalism 9-month fellowships, and FAQs about the fellowships

The Laryngospasms, a group of certified registered nurse anesthetists, create and perform medical parodies (check the videos, including "Waking Up Is Hard to Do")

Making the leap from news to books: Critical questions (The Open Notebook--The story behind the best science stories). The questions that go into books might be different from those that drive newspaper and magazine journalism. With that in mind, Charles Quoi asked six successful science authors (Deborah Blum, David Dobbs, Matthew Hutson, Maggie Koerth-Baker, Maryn McKenna, and Carl Zimmer) what questions they have found themselves asking — of themselves or of their sources — when writing books. Are there essential questions that journalists might not ask but which book authors should? Interesting responses. And David Dobbs took the opportunity to write a piece for Wired: “How Full of Sh*t Are They?” and Other Questions Writers Ask (June 2012)

Mental health and substance abuse services
Mental health services locator, by state (SAMHSA, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration)
National Addiction Rehab Locator
Find Support & Programs (NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness)
Coping with chronic, rare, and invisible diseases and disorders (Dying, Surviving, and Aging with Grace--not in that order)
[Back to Top]

Medical News Today (highlights of recent medical news)

Mis)understanding Science: The Problem with Scientific Breakthroughs (James P. Evans, Hastings Center Report, 9-21-16) Breakthroughs like Watson and Crick's into the mysteries of how genetic info is transmitted happen once or twice a century. "The story is just so good and so irresistible that it has misled generations of scientists about what to expect regarding a life in science. And more damaging, the resulting breakthrough mentality misleads the public, the media, and society's decision-makers about how science really works, all to the detriment of scientific progress and our society's well-being....Science is a sputtering course, filled with dead-ends, U-turns, and blind leads; it's not a smooth, relentless trajectory."

Money talks: when the borders between adverts and editorial content merge (Katherine Staines, Association of British Science Writers, 5-31-11)

Mosaic Magazine (an archive of articles published by the National Science Foundation's flagship magazine, 1970-92) and Like a Phoenix (Earle Holland's "On Research" blog about that period of rich science writing)

National Capital Area Skeptics (NCAS, promoting critical thinking and scientific understand). See its links to useful organizations, resources.

National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF)

National Health Policy Forum (NHPF) at George Washington University

National Library of Medicine (excellent links to health and medical information and databases), National Institutes of Health

Nature podcasts. Each week Nature publishes a free audio show. Listen online to the archived podcasts

Nature vs. Science (Tales from the Road PhD Comic on the rivalry between the two magazines, part 2) and Part 1,, by Jorge Cham

Next generation of science media: Where's the money? (Andy Extance reports on an interesting meeting of the Association of British Science Writers, 5-22-11)

***News and Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields by Victor Cohn and Lewis Cope

Newswise Theme Wires Calendar. Professional journalists can sign up to receive Newswise news alerts, access to embargoed news, and contact info for expert sources. There is a Daily Wire, a Science Wire, a Medical Wire, a Life Wire, and a Business Wire.

NIH Research. CRISP replaced by NIH RePORTer (NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting), a searchable database on federally funded biomedical research projects and programs. News updates here.

Online resources for science writers (National Association of Science Writers). This led me, for example, to Use Search Operators To Find Stories, Sources and Documents Online (Meranda Watling, 10,000 Words, Media Bistro 4-19-11)

Open access journals
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Directory of thousands of open access, peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journals (which do not charge readers or their institutions for access), with link to journals' websites.
PLoS--Public Library of Science (open access documents)
Open Journal Systems (Public Knowledge Project, a multi-university initiative developing (free) open source software and conducting research to improve the quality and reach of scholarly publishing)
Open journals that piggyback on arXiv gather momentum (Elizabeth Gibney, Nature, 1-4-16) Peer-review platforms built around online pre-print repositories spread to astrophysics.

The Open Notebook (the stories behind the best science stories). Great material for science writers. See, for example, behind-the-story interviews , elements of craft, natural habitat (where science writers share their working spaces -- offices, spare bedrooms, coffee shops, hammocks -- and the accoutrements that help them do their work), and other resources. I particularly liked Robin Marantz Henig's account of writing about anxiety for the New York Times Magazine., one of many interesting Open Notebook interviews about the writing process , the stories behind the stories.

Our Cluttered Mind, Jonah Lehrer's review (NYTimes 5-27-10) of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, who wrote Is Google Making Us Stupid? for The Atlantic (July/​August 2008).

PepsiGate linkfest (Bora Zivkovic, on A Blog Around the Clock, posts links to all key posts about the event). David Disalvo writes about it in PepsiGate’ Rocks the Science Blogging World (TrueSlant 7-8-10). Roughly: SEED magazine, owner of the well-regarded ScienceBlogs network, "decided to allow Pepsi to have its own blog on the network, called 'Food Frontiers'–which, of course, they would pay for, not unlike a block of continuous advertising space. Many bloggers at ScienceBlogs are not happy about this. The standard for any credible science journalism network is that writers earn their space on merit, not because they have products to pitch."

Pigasus Award, annual tongue-in-cheek awards (dubious awards for dubious claims)presented as 5 Worst Promoters of Nonsense by noted skeptic James Randi to expose parapsychological, paranormal or psychic frauds

PHIL (Public Health Image Library), an organized, universal electronic gateway to CDC's images "organized into hierarchical categories of people, places, and science" and "presented as single images, image sets, and multimedia files" for use by "public health professionals, the media, laboratory scientists, educators, students, and the worldwide public to use this material for reference, teaching, presentation, and public health messages."

****Pitch Database (TheOPENNotebook)

PLoS--Public Library of Science (open access documents)

Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors (Steve Silberman, PLoS blog, 6-2-11) With wonderfuil tips from Carl Zimmer, David Shenk, Cory Doctorow, Bill Wasik, Geoff Manaugh, Mark Frauenfelder, Deborah Blum, August Kleinzahler, Ben Casnocha, Barry Boyce, Peter Conners, David Crosby, Paula Span, Rudy Simone, John Schwartz, Sylvia Boorstein, David Gans, Josh Shenk, John Tarrant, Jonah Lehrer, Seth Mnookin, Maryn McKenna, Anonymous, and 255 responses

ProMED (email warnings of infectious diseases)

Pro Publica Data. Much to be found here: Workers’ Comp Benefits: How Much is a Limb Worth?, Workers’ Compensation Reforms by State, Employers Complain of Rising Premiums, But Workers’ Comp Is at 25-Year Low, Nonprofit Explorer (Search IRS 990 filings), How Dark Money Flows Through the Koch Network, ER Wait Watcher, How Well Did FEMA’s Maps Predict Sandy’s Flooding?, China’s Memory Hole: The Images Erased From Sina Weibo, After the Flood: New Maps and a New Plan for New York, How Much Acetaminophen Are You Taking?, Nursing Home Inspect, Updated Dollars for Docs. Invaluable for journalists and the public.

PubMed (database of 21 million citations for medical research from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Here is a PubMed Tutorial (on how to narrow your search etc.). And here is a story about a problem NLM needs to address: Something’s Rotten in Bethesda — The Troubling Tale of PubMed Central, PubMed, and eLife (Kent Anderson, The Scholarly Kitchen, 10-22-12). The National Library of Medicine should manage NCBI and PMC more conscientiously, and make them stop competing with publishers and technology companies.

Pulse: voices from the heart of medicine (personal accounts of illness and healing, fostering the humanistic practice of medicine, encouraging health care advocacy). See Pulse's archive of poems and stories.

Quackwatch (about, and against, complementary and alternative medicine)

Reporting on Health (articles and fellowships from California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships)

Reporting on Suicide website. Download PDF of Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide (PDF, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

Resources for health care journalists (links to general and specialized sites, for the Association of Health Care Journalists)

Resources for covering swine flu, pandemics and preparedness (one of several AHCJ tip sheets for journalists)

Retraction Watch (Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky track retractions as a window into the scientific process)

Richard Feynman explains the scientific method in 1964 lecture (video of this delightful scientist's explanation of what makes something scientific)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (excellent data and human resources on health policy and public health)

Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop

Scholarly Work, Without All the Footnotes (Arthur S. Brisbane, The Public Editor, NY Times, 10-2-10), on how a dispute about a Times Magazine article, Does Your Language Shape How You Think? by linguist Guy Deutscher, illustrates the differences between academic publishing and the popular press. Mainly: less credit to sources--and why not post those online?

Science Alert. Click on envelope icon to get Science Alerts daily by email.

Science as Falsification (Sir Karl R. Popper, excerpt from Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge--something on the philosophy of science that my godson recommends. You can listen to Popper explaining the same thing on YouTube. And here's Wikipedia's summary of Popper's claim to solve the philosophical problem of induction.

Science as a journalism ghetto: Conversation with Dan Vergano: the Science Ghetto with Ann Finkbeiner. Do check out the comments. An important and interesting conversation about why science doesn't have a higher seat at the journalism table.

The Science Byline Counting Project: Where Are the Women—and Where Are They Not? (Cynthia Graber and Katharine Gammon, Open Notebook, 2-10-16) "For short articles, women’s bylines typically equaled and in some cases outnumbered men’s. But for longer front-of-book or back-of-book pieces, where writers have an opportunity to showcase their writing style and establish credentials that could lead to opportunities to write the more prestigious feature articles, men outnumbered women, in some cases by a factor of two or three to one....At nearly all publications we examined, men published more in-depth feature stories than women did." And so on.

Science careers blog (Science, various contributors)

Science Daily (news digests on a range of topics)

Science Friday (Ira Flatow's fascinating radio show--"making science radioactive"TM -- listen live (Fridays 2 to 4 EDT) or to archived shows)

Science in Society Journalism Awards

Scienceline (a a student-run online magazine published by NYU's science, health, and environmental reporting program, SHERP).

Science Podcasts (Science Magazine, with archives from 2005 on) href=""target="_blank">Sciseek (science search engine and directory)

Science writer is quite the specimen himself: He's 94 (Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times, 2-21-13). The San Francisco Chronicle's David Perlman churned out 111 stories last year and is still going strong. Not bad for someone born before the discovery of penicillin and Pluto.

Sci-Hub v. greedy American publishers like Elsevier
Researcher illegally shares millions of science papers free online to spread knowledge (Fiona MacDonald, Science Alert, 2-12-16). Welcome to Sci-Hub, the Pirate Bay of science. "A researcher in Russia [ Alexandra Elbakyan} has made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published - freely available online. And she's now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world's biggest publishers." Interesting dilemma and discussion.
Global publishing giant [Elsevier] wins $15 million damages against researcher for sharing publicly-funded knowledge(Glyn Moody, Privacy News Online, 6-29-17) As a copyright person posted on a copyright listserv, here "copyright is being used as a big stick rather than an enabler." As the article states, "most of the work writing, checking and editing a paper is carried out completely for free. The only costs that academic publishers incur are typically for production, which are limited if publication is purely digital, as is increasingly the case. Given the extremely efficient nature of the academic publishing system, it will come as no surprise to learn that leading companies in the sector – including Elsevier – have consistently achieved profit margins between 30% and 40%, levels almost unheard of in other industries. Such elevated profit margins have come as the prices paid by academic libraries to subscribe to titles have increased rapidly. While the cost of living increased by 73% between 1986 and 2004, the expenditure by research libraries on subscriptions to academic journals went up by 273% in the same period." Which type of piracy is the more egregious?
• See also this very important piece in the Times: Should All Research Papers Be Free? (Kate Murphy, SundayReview, NY Times, 3-12-16), follow-up analysis to the suit against Alexandra Elbakyan but also about the scholarly journals' paywalls she denounced, in which the "largest companies, like Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Springer and Wiley, typically have profit margins of over 30 percent, which they say is justified because they are curators of research, selecting only the most worthy papers for publication. Moreover, they orchestrate the vetting, editing and archiving of articles."
"In response to the suit filed against her, Ms. Elbakyan wrote a letter to the judge pointing out that Elsevier, like other journal publishers, pays nothing to acquire researchers’ studies. Moreover, publishers don’t pay for the volunteer peer reviewers or editors. But they charge those same researchers, reviewers and editors, not to mention the public, whose tax dollars most likely funded the study in the first place, to read the resulting articles."
“That is very different from the music or movie industry, where creators receive money from each copy sold,” Ms. Elbakyan wrote. “I would like to also mention that we never received any complaints from authors or researchers.”

Secrets of Good Science Writing (excellent Guardian blog, in honor of the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize , sponsored by the Guardian and the Observer). A mere selection, from more than 50 blog entries:
David Dobbs on science writing: 'hung down jargon and kill it' (David Dobbs, The Guardian, 4-19-13)
Mo Costandi on science blogging ('You've nothing to lose')
Mo Costandi on science writing: a good story conveys wonderment (4-22-13)
Jacob Aron on science writing: 'Analogies are like forklift trucks'
Michael Hanlon on science writing: 'You need a bullshit detector'
Linda Geddes on science writing: 'There is always another side to the story'
Geoff Brumfiel on science writing: 'Search out the voices you disagree with'
Helen Pearson on science writing: 'Surprise me!'
Penny Bailey on science writing: 'You need to know how to tell a good story'
Roger Highfield on science writing: 'Grab them with your first sentence'
Louisa Young: 'You can't go mucking about with science' (video)
Jo Marchant on science writing: 'You need a burning curiosity'
Tim Radford on science writing: 'Don't be afraid to ask simple questions'
A voyage of discovery: how the best science writers keep you enthralled (Ed Yong) Rather than being laden from the outset with jargon, good writing will draw readers in and reward them for their attention.

7 Words (and more) You Shouldn’t Use in Medical News (HealthNewsReview)

Society for Scholarly Publishing. See its list of sustaining and supporting organizational members and its excellent blog, The Scholarly Kitchen "What's hot and cooking in scholarly publishing"

So you want to be a science writer (PDF file, Association of British Science Writers)

Starting a Career in Science Writing (Andrew Fazekas, Jim Austin, Science, 5-20-05, replete with links to similarly useful articles)

STATS (examining how numbers are distorted and statistics are misunderstood in the media and in society)

Survival Secrets for Freelance Science Writers (Andrew Fazekas, Science, 5-20-05)

Spellex (test your medical spelling aptitude)

Spurious Correlations (for when you want a good and amusing example)

Technical writers, which skill sets are important for (Writing Assistance, Inc.). See also
How technical writers add value to your team
Technical writers as subject matter experts
Technical writers are communicators
10 Questions To Distinguish Real From Fake Science (Emily Willingham, who writes about the science they're selling you, for Forbes, 11-8-12 -- read the comments, too). Originally published on Double X Science

Tips for Aggrieved Science Writers (Michael Schulson, Undark: Truth, Beauty, Science, 7-7-17) When freelance science journalists don’t get paid, or face other obstacles with publishers, there are resources that can help. There should be more.

Tip sheets for health care journalists and experts (available only to members of the Association of Health Care Journalists). Tip sheet topics include Statistical errors even you can find, What you need to know about risks, rates and ratios, Medicine 101: Words, numbers and journals, Resources for covering mental health and the military, Sources and resources for journalists covering aging, Digging into hospital finances, Domestic violence, budgets and the economy, Problems faced by ethnic minorities, Investigating health care fraud, How well does your state oversee nurses, many more -- great resources!

Tipsheet: For Reporting on Drugs, Devices and Medical Technologies (The Commonwealth Fund)

Tips for Understanding Studies ( Highly recommended: Covering Medical Research: A Guide for Reporting on Studies by Gary Schwitzer, one of several Slim Guides published by the Association of Health Care Journalists, with the Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. Other slim guides available free, online:
Covering the Health of Local Nursing Homes
Navigating the CDC: A Journalist's Guide to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web Site
Covering Obesity: A Guide for Reporters
Covering Hospitals: Using Tools on the Web.

Tips on scientific writing from European Science Editors, on Sharmanedit, drawn from EASE Guidelines for Authors and Translators of Scientific Articles to be Published in English (PDF, June 2011)

Taking Good Notes: Tricks and Tools (The Open Notebook). Speedwriting, PearNote, Livescribe, alternative handwriting systems, and more.

Toolkit for New Medical Writers (free and online resources and guidance, for both scientific medical writing and medical marketing writing), Delaware Valley chapter, American Medical Writers Association

Toolkit for journalists and consumers ( See also Just for journalists: Tips and case studies for writing about health care

Top Science Writers Lists
By no means perfect as lists, these will at least lead you to some good reading
Twenty-First Century Science Writers (The Top Tens)
Ten or More Twenty-First Century Science Communicators of Various Forms Who Are Really Good, All of Whom Happen to be Women (Sean Carroll)
The 50 best science writers of all time(
Best American Science Writers (Joel Achenbach, Achenblog, Washington Post, 4-4-12)
100 All-Time Greatest Popular Science Books (and 17 More) (Open Education Database)
[Back to Top]

Tracker (or Tracker 2.0, as a subdivision of UnDark). The MIT Knight Science Journalism Program’s Tracker Blog, now a regular column, turning "a discerning eye on science journalism — the good, the bad, and the occasionally mystifying — with the hope that our analyses will help to keep science writing vibrant, alive, and free from temptation."

Training peer reviewers (David A. Mackey,

The Truth Wears Off (Jonah Lehrer, Annals of Science, New Yorker, 12-13-10). Is there something wrong with the scientific method? The "decline effect": The decline of significance in positive results from clinical trials -- results that are rigorously proved and accepted -- start shrinking in later studies. This can be explained by selective reporting, regression to the mean, and positive publication bias. "Our beliefs are a form of blindness," writes Lehrer (e.g., results from trials on acupuncture are more positive in Asia than in the West). Early termination of trials that show a positive result could also enshrine a statistical fluke, adds one reader.

Twitter lists for medical/​science editors (KOK Edit). Save time and sign up to follow the tweeters on Katharine O'Moore-Klopf's lists of good Twitter feeds. By category: Health and medicine, news media, science resources, scientists, freelancing resources, and edit-Long-Islanders.

Undark. An editorially independent, foundation-supported digital publication of MIT's Knight Science Journalism Program. For example: The Death of a Study (Charles Schmidt, Case Study, Undark, 5-25-16) A long-term study of childhood disease burned through $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds, only to be mothballed before it ever got off the ground. Why?

The Use of Superlatives in Cancer Research (Matthew V. Abola and Vinay Prasad, JAMA Oncology, Jan. 2016) "Whereas most new cancer drugs afford modest benefits,2 approved drugs or those in development may be heralded as “game changers” or “breakthroughs” in the lay press. These news articles may be important sources of information to patients, the public, and investors—with a broader reach than medical journal articles. However, omission of medical context or use of inflated descriptors may lead to misunderstandings among readers."

Was a USDA scientist muzzled because of his bee research? (Steve Volk, Washington Post Magazine, 3-3-16)

What Is Science Journalism Worth? Part I (Kendall Powell, The Open Notebook, 1-20-15) "The money in this job sucks." Excellent discussion of where magazines and reporters/​writers/​editors find themselves today. A couple of quotes:
• Apoorva Mandavilli, editor-in-chief of, a foundation-backed journalism website that reports on autism research, says the gig economy poses an additional problem for her. "The current economic atmosphere, she says, creates a tension for writers who feel that career success depends on publishing shorter pieces at the online versions of marquee publications, which usually pay less than their print counterparts....This tension keeps all of us, myself included, beholden to unbelievably low rates when we want a flashy byline. And it allows those publications’ low offerings to suppress rates across the entire field."
• Emma Marris: "Some of our books really change people’s opinions and touch people’s lives. And yet, [writing books] can only be done by those who are either spousally subsidized, bad at math, or just very stubborn.” Part II explores what freelance science writers can do to fight their way back toward that ideal. "Most experienced freelancers aim for a rock-bottom rate of $1.00 per word for magazine work and $0.50 per word for online or newspaper copy..,,re-negotiate for more compensation when asked to do a rush job or whenever an assignment requires more labor than the original agreement." Demand a reasonable kill fee for if the article is not accepted. Rosie Mestel, chief magazine editor at Nature, advises freelancers "to write more short, newsy pieces and fewer labor-of-love, longer pieces. 'It makes me sad to say that. I don’t think it would be that satisfying, nor would it serve the public as well.' " Apoorva Mandavilli, editor-in-chief at, says more writers should "look more closely at niche publications—often backed by foundations, scientific societies, or patient-advocacy groups that remain hands-off editorially—because they can afford to pay better rates."

What is a technical writer? How do I become a technical communicator? How do I get into this field without any experience? What are some good reference books? How much are technical communicators paid? How can I find a job in technical communication? I have a degree in English—what can I do with it? Q&As from the DC-Baltimore chapter of the Society for Technical Communication

What is the difference between a certificate and certification? (Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society--scroll down for explanation)

What leads to bias in the scientific literature? New study tries to answer (Alison McCook, Retraction Watch, 3-20-17)

The Why Files (the science behind the news)

Without Fear or Favor, But Maybe an Industry Partner (Paul Raeburn, Undark, 4-22-16) Can journalistic organizations court industry partnerships without undermining their reputations? Should respected journalists lend their names and reputations to co-sponsored conferences by participating on the panels? Nobody seems to be waiting to find out.

Working as a Medical Writer (Sarah A. Webb, Science, 6-22-07)

Writing a Literature Review by Allyson Skene, The Writing Centre, University of Toronto at Scarborough (PDF)

[Go Top]

Books for Science and Medical Writers

Download the Universe (founded by Carl Zimmer, this new science e-book review site will lead you to what's hot in the science e-book universe, as reviewed by good science writers). Meanwhile, here are a few titles that may belong on your bookshelf.
• Alliance for Health Reform, Covering Health Issues (download free online)
• Archer, David and Stefan Rahmstorf . The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change
• Avorn, Jerry. Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks and Costs of Prescription Drugs
The Best American Science Writing (annual).
• Benson, Philippa J. and Susan C. Silver What Editors Want: An Author's Guide to Scientific Journal Publishing (University of Chicago Press)
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016. Buy the old years too. The best way to learn is to read models of good writing.
• **Blum, Deborah; Mary Knudson, and Robin Marantz Henig. A Field Guide for Science Writers, 2nd edition (2005)
• Bolten, Randall Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You
• **Cohn, Victor and Lewis Cope. News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields, 2nd edition. This is an area science writers are most likely to screw up in.
• Day, Robert, and Barbara Gastel. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper
• Deyo, Richard and Donald Patrick. Hope or Hype. This overview of medicine emphasizes how as a culture we promote new (especially high-tech) measures that are often less effective and more costly than old standards
• Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
• Friedman, Sharon M., Sharon Dunwoody, and Carol Rogers, eds. Communicating Uncertainty: Media Coverage of New and Controversial Science
• Gastel, Barbara. Health Writer's Handbook
• Gawande, Atul. Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science
• Gawande, Atul. Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance
• Gopnik, Adam. The Cartoon Guide to Statistics. See also The Cartoon Guide to Physics, The Cartoon Guide to Genetics, The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, plus guides to algebra and calculus.
• Greenberg, Daniel S. Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion
• Greene, Anne E. Writing Science in Plain English (University of Chicago) See review in Science Editor.
• Groopman, Jerome. How Doctors Think
• Groopman, Jerome. Second Opinions: Stories of Intuition and Choice in the Changing World of Medicine
• Hall, George M. How to Write a Paper. Clear instructions on getting published in a biomedical journal.
• Hancock, Elise. Ideas into Words: Mastering the Craft of Science Writing
• Hart, Geoffrey. Writing for Science Journals: Tips, Tricks, and a Learning plan . See table of contents and a sample chapter, or buy eBook here.
• Hayden, Thomas and Michelle Nijhuis. The Science Writers' Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age
• Iles, Robert I. Guidebook to Better Medical Writing
• Institute of Medicine. To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Read free online.
• JAMA and the Archives Journals. AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors.Latest editions expands electronic guidelines.
• Kassirer, Jerome P. On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health
• Kryder, Cynthia L. and Brian G. Bass. The Accidental Medical Writer: How We Became Successful Freelance Medical Writers. How You Can, Too.
• Lang, Thomas A. and Michelle Secic. How to Report Statistics in Medicine: Annotated Guidelines for Authors, Editors, and Reviewers (American College of Physicians)
• Lang, Thomas A. How to Write, Publish, and Present in the Health Sciences: A Guide for Physicians and Laboratory Researchers
• Levi, Ragnar. Medical Journalism: Exposing Fact, Fiction, Fraud
• Manning, Phillip. Science Books (science books news and reviews)
• Meredith, Dennis. Explaining Research: How to Reach Key Audiences to Advance Your Work.
• MindSet. MindSet Media Guide: Reporting on Mental Health (PDF, free download, in French or English)
• Monson, Nancy and Linda Peckel. Just What the Doctor Ordered: An Insider's Guide to Medical Writing
• Moynihan, Ray and Alan Cassels. Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients
• Mullan, Fitzhugh, Ellen Ficken, and Kyna Rubin, eds. Narrative Matters: The Power of the Personal Essay in Health Policy (collection of personal stories of patients, physicians, policy makers, and others whose writings humanize health policy issues, drawn from the popular "Narrative Matters" column in the journal Health Affairs.
• Nijhuis, Michelle. The Science Writers' Essay Handbook: How to Craft Compelling True Stories in Any Medium. Compact and readable, writes Lynne Lamberg.
• Nuland, Sherwin. How We Die and How We Live
• Olson, Randy. Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story. His “And, But, Therefore” template will help bring the clarification of story to science pieces. Read this story from Inside Higher Ed, which explains how the "and, and, and" approach of Al Gore's movie on climate change made it less effective.
• Park, Robert L. Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud
• Science Friday. Science books discussed on Science Friday
The Scientist (the periodical).
• Schimel, Joshua. Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited and Proposals That Get Funded . A favorite for scientific writing courses.
• Shipman, W. Matthew. Handbook for Science Public Information Officers (Univ. of Chicago)
• Stewart, James. Blind Eye: The Terrifying Story of a Doctor Who Got Away with Murder
• Veatch, Robert M. The Basics of Bioethics, 2nd ed.
• Wilcox, Christie, Bethany Brookshire and Jason Goldman. Science Blogging: The Essential Guide. See review in Science Editor.
• Woodford, F. Peter. How to Teach Scientific Communication (Council of Biology Editors, 1999). Helpful for teaching clinicians.
• Writers of SciLance. The Science Writers' Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age
• Zeiger, Mimi. Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers (available as Kindle or in print).
• Zilberberg, Marya D. Between the Lines: Finding the Truth in Medical Literature "A thoughtful, clear, conversational guide to the intricacies of medical science, studies and statistics."~ Maryn McKenna. "A readable manifesto about real-world evidence-based medicine."~Paul D. Simmons
[Go Top]

Medical and scientific images and illustrations (a partial list of sources)

AnatLine, National Library of Medicine's database of anatomical images, with online browser
Anatquest (visually compelling ways to bring anatomic images,including 3D renderings and labeled views, from the Visible Human dataset to the general public (with no-cost license agreement).
Doctor Stock (rights-managed medical and healthcare images)
DPDx Parasite Image Library
Hardin MD Medical Image Picture Gallery (University of Iowa). See Index to Hardin MD gallery
Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) , National Library of Medicine
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs
Medical Illustration Source Book (The Association of Medical Illustrators, with online portfolios)
over 1 million images and 2,000 hours of broadcast quality film footage.
NASA Multimedia Video Gallery
National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery
Netter Images (medical illustrations)
NIH Photo Galleries
NOAA's Photo Library
PHIL (CDC's Public Health Image Library)
U.S. Department of Agriculture Image Gallery (Agricultural Research Service)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library
U.S. Geological Survey Multimedia Gallery
The Visible Human Project (NLM)

See also
Visualizing Data (science infographics, the difference between visualization and infographics, time lapse visualization,
Charts, one way of visualizing data
Medical and scientific illustrations and illustrators
Multimedia explanations

[Go Top]

The truth about health care reform and health care policy

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science by David H. Freedman (The Atlantic, Nov. 2010). "Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors--to a striking extent--still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science." On PLoS Medicine you can read Ioannidis's article, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. The eight basic consumer protections the White House wants health care reform to cover: (1) No discrimination for pre-existing conditions, (2) No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays, (3) No cost-sharing for preventive care, (4) No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill, (5) No gender discrimination, (6) No annual or lifetime caps on coverage, (7) Extended coverage for young adults, (8) Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid. Learn more about these consumer protections at http:/​/​​
Excluded Voices. Trudy Lieberman's penetrating series of interviews on health care reform, in Columbia Journalism Review. Start with her interview with Wendell Potter, who "didn’t want to be part of another health insurance industry effort to shape reform that would benefit the industry at the expense of the public." You can also listen to Bill Moyers interview Potter or read the transcript and Potter's testimony before Congress.
Alliance for Health Care Reform (this nonpartisan organization has excellent resource guides for reporters).
Choosing to not have health insurance (J. Duncan Moore Jr., L.A.Times,9-21-09), though he may not have intended it, this is an argument for reform
Mental health: why journalists don’t get help in the workplace (Megan Jones, Ryerson Review of Journalism Spring 2014). "Reporters are finally telling empathetic stories about depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, but newsroom culture keeps journalists’ own struggles in the dark." Find links to good articles about Suicide, suicide prevention, and suicide reporting here.
C-Span's Health Care Hub is a good place to find various town hall discussions, hearings, wonderful links. C-Span, you're wonderful!
The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care (Atul Gawande, The New Yorker, 6-1-09)
A consumer guide to handling disputes with your employer or private health plan, 2005 update, Kaiser Family Foundation
C-Span's Health Care Hub is a good place to find various town hall discussions, hearings, wonderful links. C-Span, you're wonderful!
DrSteveB's blogroll (helpful Daily Kos blogger--and check his blogroll for other resources)
Find Help (HRSA links to free and inexpensive care)
5 Myths About Health Care Around the World by T.R. Reid (Washington Post, 8-23-09).
Guaranteed Health Care (National Nurses Organizing Committee, California Nurses Association)
The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid
Health Affairs (the policy journal of the health sphere)
HELP Is on the Way (Paul Krugman on why universal health coverage is affordable)
Health Insurance Consumer Information (news you can use), with blogs that follow the health care debate and discuss news of health insurance coverage around the country, and a Consumer Guide for Getting and Keeping Health Insurance for each state and the District of Columbia. The American Cancer Society and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other organizations provide support for this research by The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. Worth checking out.
Health Insurance Woes: My $22,000 Bill for Having a Baby (And I had coverage for maternity care! Sarah Wildman, DoubleX, 8-3-09). "Our insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, sold us exactly the type of flawed policy—riddled with holes and exceptions—that the health care reform bills in Congress should try to do away with. The “maternity” coverage we purchased didn’t cover my labor, delivery, or hospital stay. It was a sham."..."The individual insurance market is like that old joke about the food being terrible and the portions too small; it’s expensive, shoddy, and deeply unsatisfying. Those of us who buy into it are not protected by the federal and state laws that govern employer-based health care. In fact, there’s no one looking out for us at all."
Insurers explore savings in overseas care: Major health firms offer doctor networks at lower rates in foreign countries. AP/​MSNBC story. ("more insurers are offering networks of surgeons and dentists in places like India and Costa Rica." "The four largest commercial U.S. health insurers — with enrollments totaling nearly 100 million people — have either launched pilot programs offering overseas travel or explored it....Growth has been slow in part because some patients and employers have concerns about care quality and legal responsibility if something goes wrong. Plus, patients who have traditional plans with low deductibles may have little incentive to take a trip.") This is the health insurance industry's approach to health care reform?
Journalists, Left Out of The Debate: Few Americans Seem to Hear Health Care Facts. "For once, mainstream journalists did not retreat to the studied neutrality of quoting dueling antagonists," writes Howard Kurtz (Washington Post 8-24-09). "They tried to perform last rites on the ludicrous claim about President Obama's death panels, telling Sarah Palin, in effect, you've got to quit making things up. But it didn't matter. The story refused to die." As always, Kurtz provides an intelligent analysis of the situation, stating that "the healthy dose of coverage has largely failed to dispel many of the half-truths and exaggerations surrounding the debate. Even so, news organizations were slow to diagnose the depth of public unease about the unwieldy legislation. For the moment, the story, like the process itself, remains a muddle."
Medical Science and Practice in Conflict (Kevin Sack, NYTimes, 11-20-09, on how the consumer public may see evidence-based medicine as a step toward rationing)
Myths and Falsehoods on budget reconciliation (Media Matters, fighting conservative misinformation)
The Pharmaceutical Industry: Angels or Demons? (Policy and Medicine reports a plea for less demonizing of the pharmaceutical industry)
Physicians for a National Health Program (supports single-payer national health insurance)
President's Question Time (Obama, Republicans spar in Q&A (Video of debate 1-29-10, plus Andrew Sullivan's commentary, Daily Dish)
The Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 22% of Claims (National Nurses Movement on Daily Kos, 9-3-09)
Reach of Subsidies Is Critical Issue for Health Plan (Robert Pear, NY Times, 7-26-09—on another important issue: where the money comes from to cover the costs of the formerly uninsured)
Science Blogs (Health)
SurveyUSA News Poll on Health Care Data (showing public opinion on various aspects of the health care debate, by gender, race, party affiliation, ideology, level of college education, income,region, and age)
•• Twenty-six Lies About H.R. 3200 (FactCheck.Org, 8-28-09). A notorious analysis of the House health care bill contains 48 claims. Twenty-six of them are false and the rest mostly misleading. Only four are true.
Why markets can’t cure healthcare by Paul Krugman (The Conscience of a Liberal, NY Times, 7-25-09).
You can watch Michael Moore's documentary, Sicko online. You can hear on Bill Moyers' interview with Wendell Potter how the insurance industry planned to defuse reactions to Moore's documentary. As Potter states: "The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you're heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern." Potter himself says of the documentary, "I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie. But the industry, from the moment that the industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned."
T.R. Reid's conclusion in 5 Myths About Health Care Around the World:
"In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really 'foreign' to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we're Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we're Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we're Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we're Burundi or Burma: In the world's poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can't pay stay sick or die."

Godwin's Law: ""As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches"
~ Mike Godwin, creator of Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies, fearing glib use of the term will dilute the meaning of "Never Again"

[Go Top]