How Should Journalists Cover Basic Medical Research?
A quick article from Wired about medical journalism, discussing how to report research advancements when readers' attention and time are limited, and the chances of the reported-upon drug's success are slim:
Promising new drugs -- first their discovery, and then their performance at various trial stages, from animal to randomized humans -- are a standby of medical journalism.
But according to this analysis, the chances of a discovery succeeding only slightly better than those of salmon swimming an upstream gauntlet of hungry bears in order to mate. In this light, covering basic drug research seems almost misleading. (News Flash: Young Salmon Starts Migration! 'I just Know I'll Make It,' Says Hopeful Spawner). There are more immediately relevant stories on which journalists can expend their limited resources, and the public its attention.
Then there's the issue of why drug development takes so long. Is it hindered by excessive government regulation and the tremendous costs incurred by companies? If so, covering basic research is all the more merited. But if new drugs are slowed by outdated research paradigms, patent abuse and a blockbuster-driven industry model, covering them amounts to complicity.
Personally, I didn't realize that the average development time was 24 years. Now we don't feel quite so bad about not having a version of Highlight ready for Chrome!