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Disease vs. Vaccination: A Fair Comparison

Elizabeth Winter ewinter at laplaza.taos.nm.us
Mon Oct 30 21:17:36 EST 1995

"...11,000 adverse reactions ... each year, including more than 112 deaths"

Do you mean 113 deaths?  What does "more than 112" mean?

I remember reading something awhile back describing something as "one of 
the top seventeen <whatever>".  Now, I ask you, if you were rated, say, 
third, would you describe yourself as "one of the top seventeen".  There 
are times when it's good to have our language reflect uncertainty.  Too 
often it's a cover for ambiguity, or a desperate need for a publication.  
But come one, what is "more than 112" about?

One of the reasons I opted out of research science in favor of freelance 
writing was because of the ridiculous stories you'd find embedded in 
unclear use of language.  If you're gonna be silly, it's nice to be able 
to display playfulness in your writing.

One of my favorite classes in grad school was one in which we went 
through selected scientific papers phrase by phrase, basicly dismantling 
the experimental design (right down to the physical layout of the 
experiments - luckily the prof. was a large-scale ecologist so we looked 
at stuff like experiments showing "magnetic navigation" in salmon).  But 
I ramble.

I rant on language every so often, forgive me.  My writing niche is 
interpreting scientific lit for a general audience.  My plea to the 
reviewers and editors is to take your job seriously.  I just voted my 
AAAS ballot, and gave some thought to issues being raised like the 
public, and/or the Congress, don't properly appreciate the role of 
science.  I ask you to make sure the work you give me is good enough to 
trust without detailed analysis of the design and stats; make sure your 
conclusions aren't artifacts, etc.  Then I can concentrate better on my 
job of popularizing good science.

I guess I better stop now.

Thank you for your patience.


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