Question #2: Who Did the Original Research?

Science is fun! And maybe even profitable.

Science is fun! And maybe even profitable.

Any good science news story has to answer some basic questions. If it doesn't, don't believe it. Top of the list: who did the original research, when and where? If the work was done by scientists working for a for-profit company or politically motivated think tank, be skeptical. Those people are paid by people who have an agenda, and the "facts" presented are likely to be carefully groomed to promote that agenda, not give you the full story. It's not that industrial or politically motivated research is worthless -- some of our greatest advances were made in the labs of for-profit businesses, from Bell to Tesla (both the old Wizard and the new car) -- but they tend to be advances in making stuff rather than advancing the frontiers of science. When it comes to scientific research, look for studies run by scientists at top universities or respected publicly funded research groups like the National Institutes of Health. They're less driven by money (although not entirely) and more likely to present the truths of nature as revealed to them, rather than attired in the raiment of profit. 

When the research was done is important, too. In the past two weeks I've read two big-headline stories in big-name news sites that were all about work actually done more than a decade ago. The "news" was not new at all. But you'd never find that out without digging down behind the headlines to the original papers. More on that later. . .