Make it simple

October 5, 2007

Ben Goldacre criticises my attack on the Ingelfinger rule on the grounds that journalists cannot be trusted to report research accurately, no matter at what stage of the publication process a paper is ("Clinical cost of making headlines", September 21).

However, he fails to acknowledge that the media at least try to present information that is accessible to the public, something that researchers fail to do through scientific papers and conference presentations.

He suggests that "universal access to the full methods and results" is the most important aspect of publication. But that is the point - most journal papers, even if they are freely available, are not written in a style that makes them accessible to members of the public who might be affected by the content.

It is for this reason that the Royal Society, in its report Science and the Public Interest ( www.royalsoc.ac.uk/document.asp?tip=1&id=5789 ), suggested that journal papers on issues of interest and concern to the public should be accompanied by lay summaries that can be freely accessed on the web.

This would help to mitigate any potential damage by media misreporting. But it still would not justify the Ingelfinger rule, which shows that researchers usually place communication with their peers ahead of communication with the public.

Bob Ward
Hertford

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