Call for transparent labeling of news and journal articles #InMice

June 21st 2021

Public misinformation and disinformation can only benefit from poor descriptions and inaccurate labeling. As we have pointed out over and over again, there is a desperate need, now more than ever, to provide accurate information to stakeholders concerning how, whether and why animals are needed for and used in research. It is only by creating a well-informed community that substantive decision making can occur. This information should contain declared conflicts of interests and should articulate the pros and cons of any given argument.

We have recently written about these issues in relation to the accurate labelling of medications, the labelling of non-human animals with gendered pronouns, and including the vital animal research component in the myriad of news articles highlighting breakthroughs/scientific discoveries—to name a few.

We are thus heartened to see that #PublicAwareness campaigns are working and more scientists are now rising to the call, adding their voices to this endeavor, and pushing even further to guarantee that journal articles include the vital animal research component in their descriptions.

The authors of this article, Drs. Triunfol and Gouveia, tested the hypothesis that how science is reported by scientists plays a role in news reporting on that science. They assessed “whether an association exists between articles’ titles and news’ headlines regarding the omission, or not, of mice [in the title]”—with respect to Alzheimer’s research.

They found that:

“….when authors omit the species in the paper’s title, writers of news stories tend to follow suit. We also found that papers not mentioning mice in their titles are more newsworthy and significantly more tweeted than papers that do. Our study shows that science reporting may affect media reporting and asks for changes in the way we report about findings obtained with animal models used to study human diseases.”

While this relationship may be unsurprising to the many readers of Speaking of Research, it highlights the broader issues that we have continually raised (see second paragraph). By neglecting to include species information up front and center in journal articles, a narrow decontextualized focus in the corresponding news articles is presented. Moreover, it is incumbent upon science writers and reporters to clearly articulate to the public how the science was conducted and whether it involved animal models — and NOT to preferentially report on those studies that do not mention animals in their titles. This emphasis on study’s findings with a de-emphasis on how those results were Made Possible by Animal Research #MPAR can only lead to a public that is unaware and unappreciative of how vital a role #AnimalResearch plays in their day to day lives.

~Speaking of Research