After having seen the effort that goes into forming a press release, it strikes me that the end product, as seen by the general public, is a less than desirable one from the perspective of a researcher. How far does a research scientist have to go to put across their message to a large audience? A paper on the effect of lycopene on your skin’s ability to protect itself from Ultra Violet light, which is found in tomatoes, was turned into this-
Could spaghetti bolognese have anti-ageing properties?1
which is, frankly a misleading and bastardised version of a research paper that could leave the author furious and embarrassed.
On the other hand, the benefits of publicity for a researcher are boundless with regards to funding and interest. Should research on our health really be governed by how interesting it is to the public, rather than by the use of information gained from lengthy research?
In this particular instance, however, the author appears to encourage the coverage, offering a clarifying quote to the BBC.
“Eating tomatoes will not make you invincible in the sun, but it may be a useful addition to the sun protection tool box”
–Professor Mark Birch-Machin
In the health sector, the advantages of press coverage are such that one can’t really do without. What is after all, the advantage of medical research if no benefit to heath care is gained? In this case, the public must be informed of beneficial findings, or the research itself becomes redundant. I suppose researchers can handle the promotion of pasta- as long as it’s in the public interest.