Communicating science to the public - Twitter summary from 2012 #AAAAI meeting

This summary was compiled from the tweets posted by the following allergists/immunologists who attended the 2012 annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI): Stuart Carr @allergydoc4kidz and Robert Silge, MD ‏@DrSilge. The tweets were labeled #AAAAI. The text was edited and modified by me.

Paul Offit presented on communicating science to the public:

Epidemiology tip: have more subjects in study than authors! The article that Wakefield published on MMR and autism had more authors than study subjects.

At least 4 UK deaths ocurred in unvaccinated children as a result of the Wakefield paper-induced MMR scare. Hypothesis was constantly shifting: 1st MMR caused autism, then thimerisol, then too many vaccines. It is now very clear that neither MMR nor thimerosal is causally related to autism/PDD. Players in autism controversy are miscast, doctors ARE standing up for the little guy by trying to protect against diseases.

"Media's job is to entertain, not educate. The job of the journalist is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable."

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" ( Sagan). "While Galileo was a rebel, not all rebels are Galileo" (Leavitt).

Science is a way of thinking about or approaching a problem; it is enormously self-correcting. Scientists are wrong all the time. Dr. Offit finds beauty in the self-correcting nature of science. The fluidity of science may be disconcerting.

Regarding causality, people have tremendous inability to accept randomness. It is often impossible to prove a negative, and anecdote trumps evidence in most cases.

Emotion of anecdotes and stories trumps statistics and anonymous data. Anecdote trumps epidemiology every time. Cultural biases also play a role. Media interested in raising controversy not settling it.

Stand up for science, don't let bad information go unchallenged.

It is easy to scare people, harder to unscare them.

Dr. Ellis ‏@DrAnneEllis: Great talk - I like the message that we should "stand up for science" - call the media when they get it wrong.

Allergists achieved highest use of social media by any specialty

During the 2012 AAAAI meeting, the allergists achieved the highest use of social media by any specialty. There are more than 100 allergists on Twitter and 30 of them posted simultaneously from the annual meeting, broadcasting thousands of tweets tagged with #AAAAI. The annual AAAAI meeting was attended by approximately 5,000 people. In comparison, the 30 allergists on Twitter reached 250,000 people (measured by TweetReach.com on 03/04/2012).

This summary was compiled from some of the tweets posted by Stuart Carr @allergydoc4kidz and Robert Silge, MD ‏@DrSilge. I would strongly encourage you to post updates on Twitter from the CME conferences that you are planning to attend in the future. Here is how to do it: Twitter for Physicians: How to use Twitter to keep track of the latest news and scientific meetings, and share information with colleagues and patients.

Disclaimer: The text was edited, modified, and added to by me. This is one of a series of posts that will be published during the next few weeks.

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