Monday, April 11, 2005

An interview with a Harvard Epidemiologist Walter Willett (related to Michael Crichton)

Interviewer: The science of risk-factor epidemiology is controversial these days because of what people call the "carcinogen-" or "anxiety-of-the-week syndrome." It seems that every week the newspapers carry a new and usually contradictory study telling us what we should or should not eat. Is this our imagination, or is there really a problem?

Willett: It's true; there is a problem. Part of it is this very direct link between ongoing work and what comes out in The New York Times. The natural course of science is that people do studies and report finding something, but nobody believes it too much-and, hopefully, neither do the investigators-until it's reproduced by other researchers. But in the meantime, it's on the front page of the newspaper. So there is this tendency for the least substantiated findings to be the ones coming out in the popular press, when in fact this is simply part of the scientific process, and a lot of suspected associations are not ready for the public to take action or even worry about.

The complete interview here.

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