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News and Numbers


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Table of Contents

A Note to Our Readers vii A Tribute to Victor Cohn, 1919?2000 ix Foreword xi Acknowledgments xiii Notes on Sources xv Part I Learning the Basics 1 A Guide to Part I of News & Numbers 2 1 Where We Can Do Better 3 2 The Certainty of Uncertainty 8 3 Testing the Evidence 15 4 What Makes a Good Study? 37 5 Your Questions and Peer Review 54 Part II Now Down to Specifics 69 A Guide to Part II of News & Numbers 70 6 Tests and Drug Trials 71 7 Vital Statistics 83 8 Health Costs, Quality, and Insurance 97 9 Our Environment 108 10 Writing About Risks 124 11 Polls 133 12 Statistical Savvy for Many Types of News 145 Epilogue 161 Glossary 163 Bibliography 170 Index 173

About the Author

The late Victor Cohn, called the Dean of ScienceWriters was the prize-winning science editor and writer for The Washington Post for 25 years. He was cited as one of thetop science writers by The New York Times and Newsweek, co-founded the Council for the Advancement ofScience Writing and served as president of the National Associationof Science Writers. Lewis Cope was science writer at the Star Tribuneof Minneapolis-St. Paul for 29 years and, like Cohn, the recipientof numerous awards. Cope formerly served as president of theNational Association of Science Writers. Deborah Cohn Runkle is a Senior Program Associate at theAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science.


?News & Numbers is a classic that should be a must-read for journalists in all fields, from business to sports. It provides practical advice for avoiding embarrassing statistical pitfalls.? - Cristine Russell, President, Council for the Advancement of Science Writing "The demand for press coverage of science and medicine is growing as public interest grows. This book sets the standard. It uses simple language to teach the layman or the scientist how to read and understand scientific publications. Even more important, it teaches one to critically interpret and think about research findings and ask the right questions. This is a book that you can read from cover to cover and then keep as a reference." - Otis Brawley, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, ACS ?Vic Cohn's reporting inspired a generation of science and health writers, and he kept us on the straight and narrow with his concise and engaging book on how to interpret scientific studies. Now updated and expanded, his classic guide to statistics should be essential reading, not just for reporters but for anybody trying to separate science from pseudoscience in the torrent of unfiltered information flowing over the internet.? - Colin Norman, News Editor, Science magazine

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