If interpreting research statistics or results is often complicated for health professionals, the task can be even more arduous for journalists dealing with scientific information.To shed a little light on some of the basic concepts and to discuss the problems that often occur for biomedical journalists when attempting to understand statistical data, the Seminar of biostatistics for journalists and communicators took place in Barcelona on 26 November 2015 after being held in Madrid and Valencia.

The seminar was organized by the Esteve Foundation, the Asociación Española de Comunicación Científica (AECC) (Spanish Association of Scientific Communication) and the Associació Catalana de Comunicació Científica (ACCC) (Catalan Association of Scientific Communication). It aims to provide basic training to interpret the results of biomedical research and to clarify the chief problems involved in information with statistics. Apart from offering essential technical knowledge, there were also two practical workshops with examples, and a debate between journalists and communicators, on the problems involved in drawing up news articles and press releases on biomedical studies.

Directed by scientific journalists and communicators, the seminar took place at the Colegio de Periodistas de Catalunya (Rambla de Catalunya, 10. Barcelona), with the following participants and programme:

Gonzalo Casino is a scientific journalist and doctor in Medicine, with a postgraduate degree in Biostatistics. He was coordinator of health information of El País newspaper for a decade, and chief editor of Doyma/Elsevier Spain. He publishes the blog Escepticemia and writes for a number of journals. Member of the AECC.

Pablo Alonso is specialist in Family and Community Medicine and is a researcher for Servet of the Centro Cochrane Iberoamericano (IIB-Sant Pau, CIBERESP) in Barcelona. He is head of the GRADE Centre in Spain and member of the MBE, and of the group of the wife of SemFYC. His work is focused on systematic revisions and practical clinical guides.

Michele Catanzaro is a doctor in Physics and a freelance journalist for El Periódico, Historia y Vida, Nature, Science Careers, Physics World, Chemistry World, Le Scienze and other media. He is author of the book Redes: Una breve introducción and co-author of the documentary Injusticia Exprés. El caso Óscar Sánchez.

Erik Cobo studied Medicine in Barcelona and Statistics in Essex and Paris. He is professor of Statistics of the UPC of Barcelona, methodology editor of Medicina Clínica, senior editor of Trials and co-director of the UPC online course Biostatistics for non-statisticians. He belongs to the BIOSTANET network and the GRBIO group.

Ignacio Fernández Bayo is a journalist specialized in science since 1980, with around 3,500 articles published in different media. Since 2000, he has been director of the company Divulga, participating in drawing up a wide range of books, documentaries and exhibitions. Vice-president of the AECC.

Daniel Flichtentrei, cardiologist from Universidad de Buenos Aires and vice-director of the medical university degree specializing in cardiology (Buenos Aires Association of Doctors). He is chief editor of medical contents of IntraMed, editor of the IntraMed Journal and editor of the collection of books Puentes entre la ciencia y las humanidades, from the Libros del Zorzal publishers.

Jesús Méndez is a doctor specialized in Clinical Biochemistry and doctor in Cinical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He holds a Master Degree in Scientific Communication and is currently a journalist and freelance scientific writer for the Sinc Agency, El País, Muy Interesante and Scientific American, plus other media.

Cristina Ribas is a biologist and journalist. She works as a consultant of digital health projects. She is a professor in journalism and co-director of the postgraduate degree in Strategic Digital Communication at Universidad Pompeu Fabra. She has worked in the press, radio, television and digital media as a journalist specialized in science, health, environment and technology. President of the ACCC.

Raül Toran is graduated in Physics and scientific communication, with over 13 years experience in various research centres of Catalonia. He currently works for the Centro de Investigación en Epidemiología Ambiental (CREAL) (Environmental Epidemiology Research Centre) and collaborates with the science blog of “La Caixa” Social Project. Vice-president of the ACCC.

Reception and accreditation of attendants

Presentation of the seminar
F. Bosch, C. Ribas, G. Casino

Journalists facing biostatistics:problems, errors and caution
G. Casino

What does biomedical research expect to achieve and what can it answer?
E. Cobo

To what extent can we trust the results?
P. Alonso

Coffee break

Workshop 1.Examples and discussion
P. Alonso, G. Casino, E. Cobo

How are results of medical studies measured?
E. Cobo

Workshop 2.Examples and discussion
P. Alonso, G. Casino, E. Cobo


Debate. Biomedicine studies in press releases and news articles
C. Ribas (moderator)
I. F. Bayo, M. Catanzaro, J. Méndez, R. Torán

Conclusions and key messages
G. Casino

What do doctors think? Awareness of limits and pitfalls of reasoning
D. Flichtentrei

Closure of the seminar and presentation of diplomas
I. F. Bayo, vice-president of the AECC