- 2004 – Study finds that deworming in school age children leads to increased school participation. Healthier kids go to school more. Shocking.
- 2004 – 2015 – The media misinterprets the study and lauds it as the solution to all low income country’s problems. People love simple solutions. The media gives the people what they want. The media starts shrieking with delight.
- 2015 – Re-analysis casts doubt on how much deworming programs increase school participation. The media is shocked and feels it has been misled, starts chanting ‘fight, fight, fight’.
For more info on this important story / storm in a teacup (I’m undecided) see:
- Columbia Professor Chris Blattman’s take on it What You Need to Know About Wormwars and 10 Things he learned about Wormwars
- Berkeley Prof. Paul Gertler’s Good Science Gone Wrong?
- Esther Duflo and Paul Karlan’s An Informed Debate Requires a Careful Look at the Data
Also see Christie Aschwanden’s piece at Five Thirty Eight Science isn’t Broken
Media accounts of science tend to gloss over the nuance, and it’s easy to understand why. For one thing, reporters and editors who cover science don’t always have training on how to interpret studies. And headlines that read “weak, unreplicated study finds tenuous link between certain vegetables and cancer risk” don’t fly off the newsstands or bring in the clicks as fast as ones that scream “foods that fight cancer!”