PLoS Medicine in the media: August 2011

Several PLoS Medicine papers have made world media headlines over the past month.

Smoking in Movies

On 23rd August, PLoS Medicine published two papers on the theme of tobacco in films. In a policy forum, Christopher Millett and colleagues call for governments to give films which contain tobacco imagery adult ratings and to make such films ineligible for public subsidies. Simon Chapman and Matthew Farrelly take the opposite viewpoint in an essay entitled “Four Arguments against the Adult-Rating of Movies with Smoking Scenes”. The Guardian reports on the Millett paper, focusing on the £338 million of tax credits the UK government has awarded to films that feature smoking. ABC News and CBC News present both sides of the debate. PLoS Medicine Senior Editor Jocalyn Clark has also blogged on the topic.

Global Neonatal Mortality Rates

In a paper published on 30th August, Mikkel Oestergaard and colleagues provide annual estimates of neonatal mortality rates and neonatal deaths for 193 countries for 1990 to 2009, and give forecasts for the future. This paper became a worldwide media focus and was covered by the Kaiser Family Foundation, USA Today and Voice of America in the US, The Guardian and Reuters in the UK and, elsewhere, the Times of India, El Universal in Mexico, and Agence France Presse, many journalists focusing on their own country’s newborn mortality rates in their reports. The study’s funding bodies, WHO and Save the Children, as well as international organizations such as the UN, also announced the findings. Oestergaard and Joy Lawn, a co-author of the paper, wrote blogs for the Healthy Newborn Network.

People Tracking During Disasters Using Mobile Data

The same week, PLoS Medicine published a paper by Linus Bengtsson and colleagues, who examine the use of mobile phone data to monitor population movements during disasters and outbreaks. Their study tracked SIMs in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and was covered by, among others, NPR (including a clip of their broadcast of the story on 31st August), the BBC, the New York Times and UPI. In Australia, as well as reporting on the paper’s findings, The Conversation discusses issues relating to individual privacy raised by the study.

Ghostwriting Collection

To round off a high-profile month, PLoS Medicine also launched its Ghostwriting Collection in the final week of August. As well as comprising PLoS Medicine ghostwriting-themed papers going back as far as January 2007, the collection includes four papers published over the past month. In a policy forum, Simon Stern and Trudo Lemmens argue that guest authorship constitutes legal fraud. Alastair Matheson examines in a perspective article how the authorship rules for medical journals can be manipulated to misattribute authorship. In another perspective article, Linda Logdberg, a former ghostwriter, goes on record to describe how ghostwriting works and why she participated, then gave it up. Finally, in an editorial, the PLoS Medicine Editors discuss the new perspectives on ghostwriting offered in the other three articles and reflect on the remedies the authors suggest. Coverage of this collection of papers so far includes The Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes, CTV News, CBC and The Guardian.

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