New labelling system for medical research press releases

Following a suggestion from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle to the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS), Higher Education institutions are now to implement the use of a new labelling system for press releases when announcing new medical research findings.

The system arises from the recommendations made by an AMS report on Assessing Medical Evidence published last year. The recommendations aimed at helping the wider public to better assess where the best most reliable medical research evidence lies.

Leicester and other universities have been working closely with the Science Media Centre (SMC) as part of the pilot of the labelling system, which is now being implemented by a number of science communicators across the sector.

The concept is that the labelling system will act as an extra de-hyping nudge when drafting press releases and help the wider public to better assess where the most reliable medical research evidence lies and to improve the accuracy of news reporting. It will also allow press releases to better communicate to journalists - and via them to the public - what stage the research is, whether it is peer reviewed, and what kind of study it is.

Following positive feedback on a trial of the system- involving Leicester- from press officers and journalists, the SMC has announced that it will begin to be rolled out in science press offices from the beginning of July this year.

Last year, our Press Office also volunteered to take part in another trial, InSciOut, run by Cardiff University which was designed to assess the presence of exaggeration in medical press releases and how the wording of press releases influences news coverage.

The Science Media Centre has published a blog which provides further information about the system and its potential benefits.