Reporting on Science

Copyright 1998 The New York Times
The New York Times (January 18, 1998)

To the Editor:

"The Fat's in the Fire, Again" (Week in Review, Jan. 11) correctly laments the often conflicting information that seems to emanate to the public from health-related scientific studies. Aside from differences in study design and analysis of data, a big part of the problem is the premature proliferation of health-related public messages based on these studies and the role of the popular press.

One critical factor driving the process is that research institutions are eager to have results of studies performed in their laboratories appear in prominent newspapers and magazines. This is because philanthropists like nothing better than to support institutions whose research efforts appear on page one.

With the shrinking of government money for research and the increased dependence on private financing, there will likely be more and more of these sorts of articles.

They would generate far less confusion if just left in the scientific literature until firm conclusions are established.

JERRY RAPP, New York, Jan. 12, 1998. The writer is a professor of biological sciences at the State College of Optometry, SUNY.

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