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Ensuring Responsible Writing Practices

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Responsible science and scholarship entail the highest degree of objectivity in reporting the results of our research. Most authors will make every effort to describe their observations without exaggerating the importance of the findings or overstating their conclusions, sometimes with the assistance of the journal referees. However, lapses in objectivity when presenting research to a general audience have been noted in journal articles (see Cummings & Rivara, 2012) and, especially in institutional press releases that are later used by science writers to describe the latest research findings. For example, Woloshin and Schwartz (2002) have carried out an analysis of press releases and reported that such documents often fail to emphasize the limitations of the studies. These authors noted that “[d]ata are often presented using formats that may exaggerate the perceived importance of findings.” Their results are noteworthy because, in some cases, study authors are consulted during the editorial stages of producing a press release. The hype surrounding scientific findings, particularly those related to health and technology, can inflate public expectations about new treatment possibilities and other technological advances. Thus, we face a real risk of further erosion in the public’s trust in science if the promises of these findings fall short (Master and Resnik, 2011)