Dr Gordon Prescott

Thursday, September 20 2012 at 7:30PM

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35 Rosemount Viaduct
City Centre, Aberdeen AB25 1NE

Dr Gordon Prescott

What's the talk about?

How do we weigh up risks reported in the media? When does a danger merit real concern? How should we interpret reported risks? How should we use these to inform or influence our daily decisions?

No single scientific study can provide a complete answer or prove that one thing causes another. The scientific process of moving gradually from many hypotheses to a consensus view based on evidence does not lend itself to producing sound bites. In contrast, the media can most easily present clear, concise messages illustrated by the potential short term consequences for a typical person.

Different ways of presenting information about risks can create different impressions of the practical importance of scientific findings to an individual. There is always a balance between potential risks and potential benefits of any action, whether that is the decision to prescribe a treatment or to change a government policy. Examples from health research will be used to examine issues related to the presentation and interpretation of statistics in the media.

Gordon Prescott is a senior lecturer in medical statistics at the University of Aberdeen. His work involves application of statistical methods to medical research questions, the development of statistical methodology and the training of health care professionals