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About Media Coverage & Human Biotechnology

Until a few years ago, human biotechnologies were rarely discussed in the popular media. Now magazine covers, television shows, newspaper headlines and front-page articles showcase their development and the controversies surrounding them.

This increased coverage is welcome; sunlight can be a good disinfectant. Nevertheless, mainstream media coverage has been inadequate or misleading in several regards.

Too often it prematurely celebrates new techniques as "breakthroughs" or "medical miracles," even when they are preliminary and unconfirmed. This is particularly dangerous in a growing culture of "science by press release," where fantastic findings are often later debunked (with less fanfare) by peer review. Also, the press rarely scrutinizes scientists' and bioethicists' statements, actions, or potential conflicts of interest with the same rigor they bring to reports about other public figures.

Lastly, too few media accounts make clear the full import of what's at stake. Excitement about possible new medical therapies tends to drown out consideration of undesirable prospects including genetic discrimination, increased health inequalities, and the misuse of human biotechnologies.

Designer and Discarded Genomesby Ruha Benjamine-flux ArchitectureOctober 12th, 2016Field notes from a Harvard meeting on a "synthetic human genome" moonshot reveal the anti-democratic foundations of HGP-Write.
3-Person IVF Breaking News: Where Are the Advocates for the Public Interest? by Leah LowthorpOctober 7th, 2016A baby created via 3-person IVF was delivered by US doctors in Mexico in order to avoid regulation. How has the media responded in the US and internationally?
CRISPR Embryos at Karolinska: Controversies Demand Oversightby Elliot HosmanOctober 7th, 2016Ongoing gene editing experiments in human embryos around the world underscore the need to prohibit modifying cells for use in human reproduction.
Don’t Miss This: The Story of CRISPR Told in a Comicby Kayla TolentinoOctober 6th, 2016Illustrator Andy Warner helps to break down the complexities of the still unraveling CRISPR gene editing story in his recent piece "Bad Blood."
Corporate Culture Has No Place in Academiaby Olof HallonstenNature NewsOctober 3rd, 2016A scandal at the Karolinska Institute demonstrates the risks of academic capitalism: a global trend that turns universities into businesses.
Sally Phillips: Do We Really Want a World without Down’s Syndrome?by Viv GroskopThe Guardian October 1st, 2016The UK national health service will now cover new tests to screen fetuses for Down syndrome. A mother and actress notes the likely result: "It becomes ‘your fault’ if you choose to have the baby."
A Top Journalist is Suing the FDA Over Its Alleged Use of a Banned and Secretive Practice to Manipulate the Newsby Dave MosherBusiness InsiderSeptember 24th, 2016The FDA has imposed "close-hold embargoes," which allow reporters access to newsworthy information only if they agree not to contact outside sources, a keystone of journalistic due diligence.
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Announces $3 Billion Investment To Cure All Diseaseby Eyder PeraltaNPRSeptember 21st, 2016For some perspective, the fiscal 2016 budget for the National Institutes of Health is more than $31 billion.
Everything you wanted to know about genetic engineering in one chirpy video[citing CGS' Elliot Hosman]by Michael CookBioEdgeSeptember 16th, 2016The animated video explains the complex present and speculative future of CRISPR well, but takes too optimistic a view of how it might be used.
‘Motherless babies!’ How to create a tabloid science headline in five easy stepsby Gretchen VogelScience MagazineSeptember 14th, 2016Here's the recipe for transforming a modest developmental biology paper into a blockbuster story.
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