I dont know what to believe


Motherhood in Western Europe

Insights from Western European Mothers

The changing face of motherhood — Western Europe

The accompanying reports combine a review of existing literature with an analysis of original quantitative data derived from a poll of 9,582 mothers from 12 countries in Western Europe, making it one of the largest studies of this kind ever conducted

Child Obesity and Health

An analysis of the latest available data from the Health Survey for England (HSE)

Child Obesity and Health — download the full report in pdf format

In this ‘National Childhood Obesity Week’, the SIRC report, Children, obesity and heath: Recent trends, holds up a true mirror, accurately reflecting the trend towards slimmer, healthier children. more

The Future of Freemasonry

An examination of the role of Freemasonry in the 21st century


This report is, as far as we know, an account of the first ever study that has been commissioned by Freemasons from a non-Masonic body. None of the SIRC members involved in the project are Freemasons, a fact that evoked surprise and welcome in equal measure from the Lodge members we met. more

The Changing Face of Motherhood

Insights from three generations of mothers


The report seeks to answer some specific questions about the changing face of motherhood and determine the extent to which modern ‘solutions’ to motherhood are more or less beneficial than the solutions of the past. more

I don't know what to believe!

Regular browsers of the SIRC web site will be familiar with the MediaWatch page and our 'Scares and Miracles' section. Given the frequent disregard in many parts of the media for accurate and balanced science and health coverage, it is not surprising that many people find it difficult to know what is factually based and what is pure junk. The fault, however, does not lie entirely with the press. Quite often journalists receive material in the form of press releases or conference papers which have not been subject to any formal vetting procedures — the critical test being that of 'peer review'. This assesses the validity of the methods and results of research, the significance of the findings and whether the content should or should not be published.

Sense About Science — a charity devoted to the promotion of evidence-based approaches to scientific issues — has produced a timely guide to the peer review process. It explains with welcome clarity just what goes on behind the scenes before a research paper is published in a respectable journal and why the procedures are so important. For the reader of media science stories it is an invaluable tool for detecting the hallmarks of sound research and the warning signs that might make us wary of taking the report too seriously. Journalists would also do well to note the guide's content before trying to scare us to death on the basis of a piece of 'preliminary' research on some potential risk to our health and well-being that has not been subject to such scrutiny.

Copies of the guide in pdf format can be downloaded for free from the Sense About Science web site by clicking here or on the icon in the right-hand column.

28 November 2005