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Making headlines: an analysis of US government-funded cancer research mentioned in online media
  1. Lauren A Maggio1,
  2. Chelsea L Ratcliff2,
  3. Melinda Krakow3,
  4. Laura L Moorhead4,
  5. Asura Enkhbayar5,
  6. Juan Pablo Alperin5
  1. 1 Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  2. 2 University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
  3. 3 National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland, USA
  4. 4 San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California, USA
  5. 5 Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Juan Pablo Alperin; juan{at}alperin.ca

Abstract

Objective To characterise how online media coverage of journal articles on cancer funded by the US government varies by cancer type and stage of the cancer control continuum and to compare the disease prevalence rates with the amount of funded research published for each cancer type and with the amount of media attention each receives.

Design A cross-sectional study.

Setting The United States.

Participants The subject of analysis was 11 436 journal articles on cancer funded by the US government published in 2016. These articles were identified via PubMed and characterised as receiving online media attention based on data provided by Altmetric.

Results 16.8% (n=1925) of articles published on US government-funded research were covered in the media. Published journal articles addressed all common cancers. Frequency of journal articles differed substantially across the common cancers, with breast cancer (n=1284), lung cancer (n=630) and prostate cancer (n=586) being the subject of the most journal articles. Roughly one-fifth to one-fourth of journal articles within each cancer category received online media attention. Media mentions were disproportionate to actual burden of each cancer type (ie, incidence and mortality), with breast cancer articles receiving the most media mentions. Scientific articles also covered the stages of the cancer continuum to varying degrees. Across the 13 most common cancer types, 4.4% (n=206) of articles focused on prevention and control, 11.7% (n=550) on diagnosis and 10.7% (n=502) on therapy.

Conclusions Findings revealed a mismatch between prevalent cancers and cancers highlighted in online media. Further, journal articles on cancer control and prevention received less media attention than other cancer continuum stages. Media mentions were not proportional to actual public cancer burden nor volume of scientific publications in each cancer category. Results highlight a need for continued research on the role of media, especially online media, in research dissemination.

  • information technology
  • medical journalism
  • media
  • cancer
  • grant funding

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Footnotes

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Contributors LAM, AE and JPA contributed to the conceptualization and design of the work, acquired and analysed the data, drafted the work and revised it critically for intellectual content, provided final approval of the version published, and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. CLR and LLM contributed to the conceptualisation and design of the work, drafted the work and revised it critically for intellectual content, provided final approval of the version published, and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. MK contributed to the conceptualisation and design of the work; analysed the data, drafted the work and revised it critically for intellectual content, provided final approval of the version published, and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Funding JPA and AE were funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)—Insight Grant—No 435-2016-1029.

  • Disclaimer The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense, the National Cancer Institute, or the US Government.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement To facilitate transparency and replication of our methods, we have made our computer code and the project’s complete data set publicly accessible at: https://zenodo.org/record/1306985#.W0CYqhJKh24.

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