Press coverage from other years
SIRC in the News
Press coverage from 2001
- Borneo Bulletin – 28.12.2001
SMS rules the telecom airwaves now. According to the Social Issues Research Centre, study showed that mobile phones are a "social lifeline in a fragmented and isolated world." Text messaging, it added, has become the 21st Century equivalent of saying "Hello" over the garden fence. "Many traditional arenas for gossip – such as post offices, banks, village greens and over the garden fence – have disappeared or become inaccessible and been replaced by mobile phones," the study said.
- Dail Mail – 26.12.2001
Time to ignore this sickening paranoia. Perhaps yesterday, it being Christmas Day, you ate and drank heartily maybe even smoked a cigar and didn't worry about the effect of all this self-indulgence on your health. If so, congratulations. But beware: you are certain to read pieces in the newspapers or hear so-called experts on radio or television warning you of the terrible risks you ran by following roast turkey with plum pudding or mince pies … Last month Dr Peter Marsh, of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, put it like this: 'Life is the safest it has ever been. There is less disease, we are better fed and better protected, our environment is safer.' Yet scarcely a week passes without one health scare or another.
- Excellence in Science – December 2001
Reporting the facts, not fiction. In response to concerns that the quality of health and science reporting is not always of a uniformly high standard, the Royal
society, the Social Issues Research Centre and the Royal Institution have together published guidelines on science and health communication.
- Investors Chronicle – 20.12.2001
Women Investors – Not Just A Pretty Face. This is not the only reason why women do better than men. "Women tend to be more risk-averse than men," says Kate Fox, director of the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre. In racing circles, she points out, a wager of a piddling GBP 2 is known as a "lady's bet".
- Birmingham Post – 19.12.2001
Flirting Is A Complex Art. Research soon to be published has revealed that flirting is not reserved for the young. The Baileys Report, which will be released in January, will reveal that there is a generation of 'flirtysomethings' who are deliberately staying free and single and avoiding the commitment of marriage and children, often into their late 30s. Flirting is a complex art – from choosing a target to discovering if the feeling is reciprocated. Kate Fox, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre, says: 'Flirting is a basic human instinct. We are genetically programmed to flirt. If we didn't make contact with the opposite sex then the human species would have gone extinct.
- Aftonbladet – 19.12.2001
Mobilen – vår sociala livlina. I en rapport utgiven av Social Issues Research Center i Oxford jämförs skvaller med apornas flockbeteende när de plockar loppor av varandra. Beteendet har visat sig öka endorfinproduktionen, förbättra immunförsvaret och dämpa stress.
- Wales on Sunday – 16.12.2001
Everybody Flirts… Kate Fox, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre, says: "Flirting is a basic human instinct. We are genetically programmed to flirt. If we didn't make contact with the opposite sex then the human species would have gone extinct. "These are people who are playing longer, working harder and are not at all concerned about being `left on the shelf'. They seem to be postponing their maturity," Fox says.
- De Telegraaf – 16.12.2001
Mobiel babbelen als apen. De mobiele telefoon is volgens de studie van het Social Issues Research Centre een sociale verbindingslijn in een gefragmenteerde en geïsoleerde wereld. Het versturen van tekstberichten staat gelijk aan het gedag zeggen over de schutting. Terwijl het voeren van mobiele gesprekken de plaats heeft ingenomen van traditionele roddelplekken zoals postkantoren en banken.
- Western Daily Press – 16.12.2001
It's The Flirtysomethings. Christmas can prove a fortuitous time for Bridget Jones-style singletons. Parties, mistletoe, roaring log fires can make a heady mix for romance. And whether you're looking for that special someone or just fancy a Christmas fling, it is time to put your flirting technique to the test. Research reveals that flirting is not reserved for the young. The Baileys Report, which will be published in January, finds there is a generation of'flirtysomethings' deliberately staying free and single and avoiding the commitment of marriage and children, often into their late 30s…Kate Fox, codirector of the Social Issues Research Centre, identifies two types of flirting. "There's flirting for fun which is light-hearted banter, and what I call flirting with intent, " she says.
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – 16.12.2001
Gorillas am Handy. Anthropologen des "Social Issue Research Centre" (SIRC) im
britischen Oxford kommen aufgrund einer umfaenglichen Studie zu dem Schluss,
dass die Benutzung von Handys ein aus evolutionsgeschichtlichen Tiefen
herruehrendes Beduerfnis unserer Primatenseele befriedigt. Handys dienten
naemlich keineswegs in erster Line zum Austausch sachbezogener Information,
sondern zum Tratschen. Dieses Tratschen wiederum ("emotional aufgeladene
Kommunikation ueber Abwesende", so definiert es die Wissenschaft) sei die
intelligente Variante eines unter Affen verbreiteten Sozialverhaltens, das
Zoologen als "grooming" bekannt ist, worunter wir wechselseitiges Lausen oder
Krabbeln verstehen duerfen.
- Guardian – 08.12.2001
Party politics – those annual office blowouts. Anthropologists say that the effects of the hardcore drinking typical at festive jollies, something which the British people are acknowledged to be champions of the world over, is compounded by the rule of carnival law. "It's what we call cultural remission, a temporary relaxation of normal social rules and controls," explains Kate Fox, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre. "Things which are usually forbidden are actively encouraged, such as jumping into fountains, dressing outrageously and chatting up other peoples' partners. This is known as Festive Inversion."
- BBC – 05.12.2001
Monkey business on mobile phones. Mobile phones allow people to gossip freely and become ape-like in their behaviour, researchers suggest. Anthropologists at the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in Oxford say chatting on the phone is the human equivalent of social grooming among chimpanzees and gorillas. They claim it helps build relationships, solve conflicts, teach social skills and make friends. Dr Kate Fox, one of the authors of a report entitled Evolution, Alienation and Gossip – the Role of Mobile Telecommunications in the 21st Century, said: "Gossip is not a trivial pastime; it is part of our evolutionary hard-wiring.
- Glasgow Herald – 05.12.2001
People are going ape over their mobiles. IT'S the hot gossip from the Stone Age – 21st-century man and woman who talk constantly on mobile phones are behaving like apes. According to anthropologists, gossip has become the human equivalent of social grooming among chimpanzees and gorillas. The researchers at the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford have found that mobile phones help bring out the ape in us by allowing complete freedom to gossip when we want. Dr Kate Fox, one of the authors of a report entitled Evolution, Alienation and Gossip – the Role of Mobile Telecommunications in the 21st Century, said: "Gossip is not a trivial pastime. It is part of our evolutionary hard-wiring.
- Telegraph – 05.12.2001
Mobiles meet primal urge to gossip. A study into the evolution and effects of gossip found that it was an inherent need in order to maintain our social, psychological and physical well-being and that the mobile phone was the primary way of satisfying that need. The research by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford revealed that most people mainly used their mobiles for gossiping with friends and colleagues, something akin to mutual grooming among primates.
- Times – 05.12.2001
How mobiles groom planet ape. Mobile phones bring out the ape in people, scientists have confirmed. Gossiping into a handset is the modern human equivalent of grooming among gorillas and chimpanzees, research has found … The findings were made by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, which took the results of focus groups and a 1,000-person ICM poll on patterns of mobile phone use.
- Guardian – 05.12.2001
Mobile users 'ape monkeys'. Gossip on mobile phones has turned into "the equivalent of social grooming among primates", according to a survey out today. This grooming process – comparable to the way apes clean each other's fur – has become vital as an antidote to the pressures and alienation of modern life.
- Scotsman – 05.12.2001
Mobiles help us ape our ancestors. Swapping titbits of information about friends, work colleagues and family is the equivalent of social grooming among our primitive cousins, according to anthropologists. The Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) has found that mobile phones help to bring out the ape in us by allowing complete freedom to gossip when we want.
- Belfast Telegraph – 05.12.2001
Phone gossips 'behave like apes' claims report. People gossiping on mobile phones are behaving like apes, researchers said today. Gossip has become the human equivalent of social grooming among chimpanzees and gorillas, according to anthropologists at the Social Issues Research Centre n Oxford. Mobile phones helped bring out the ape inside us by allowing complete freedom to gossip when we want.
- Birmingham Post – 05.12.2001
Gorillas In Mist Or On The Mobile. Kate Fox, one of the authors of a report entitled Evolution, Alienation and Gossip -- the Role of Mobile Telecommunications in the 21st Century, said: "Mobiles have increased and enhanced this vital therapeutic activity, allowing us to gossip any time, any place, anywhere." The report said gossip was good for people because it helped develop relationships, teach social skills, resolve conflicts, and make friends.
- Coventry Evening Telegraph – 05.12.2001
Gossip Brings Out The Ape In People. Gossip has become the human equivalent of social grooming among chimpanzees and gorillas, according to anthropologists at the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. Mobile phones helped bring out the ape inside us by allowing complete freedom to gossip when we want.
- Daily Post (Liverpool) – 05.12.2001
It's True – We Chatter Like The Apes. "Language evolved at least partly to allow us to gossip, which is the human of equivalent of 'social grooming' among our primate cousins. Mobiles have increased and enhanced this vital therapeutic activity, allowing us to gossip any time, any place, anywhere."
- Daily Record – 05.12.2001
Mobile Phone Tunes Banned. Gossip has become the human equivalent of social grooming among chimps and gorillas, according to anthropologists at the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. They say phones bring out the ape within by allowing freedom to gossip at any time. Mobiles have also allowed a return to communication patterns of days gone by when we lived in smaller, close-knit communities. And they found women are better gossips than men, tackling it with more enthusiasm.
- Daily Mail – 05.12.2001
Why Mobiles Are A Hotline To Our Roots. Kate Fox, one of the report's authors, explained: 'Gossip is not a trivial pastime. It is part of our evolutionary hard-wiring. Mobiles have increased and enhanced this vital therapeutic activity, allowing us to gossip any time, any place, anywhere.' Text messaging has become the 21st century equivalent of saying 'Hello' over the garden fence, since many traditional arenas for gossip are ruled out by fast-paced modern lifestyles.
- Evening Standard – 04.12.2001
Mobile phone gossips "behave like apes". People who gossip on mobile phones are behaving like apes, according to researchers. Gossip has become the human equivalent of social grooming among chimpanzees and gorillas, according to anthropologists at the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in Oxford.
- The Age – 02.12.2001
Living with the greatest plague. Last month Peter Marsh, of the Social Issues Research Centre in London, gave a speech "in praise of bad habits" in which he condemned what he called society's obsession with health and lifestyle correctness. He argued that, in an age in which Westerners are healthier and safer than they have ever been, irrational anxieties have arisen about sudden death from fry-ups and cigarettes. On his office wall hangs a Russian proverb that says, "If you don't drink and you don't smoke, you will die healthy".
- Radio Free Europe – 11.11.2001
Anthrax Claims More Psychological Victims Than Physical Ones. Doctor Peter Marsh is a psychologist and director of the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Center. He's studied the psychological effects of what he calls "scare stories" for a number of years. "The thing about anthrax is the terrifying images that can be conjured up around that subject, the kind of invisible spores that you can't detect till you've actually contracted the disease itself. I think right at the beginning, the way in which the media communicated this both in the [United] States and in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe indeed, perhaps did more damage than the terrorists could ever have hoped to achieve. Because clearly the fear of anthrax and how it affects people is greater than the number of people who have either contracted or been affected by the disease itself."
- Mail on Sunday – 04.11.2001
Homing instinct. Last year's survey by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford categorised DIY enthusiasts into two types: 'territorial markers' and those who say decorating is their favourite hobby. If territorial marking means preferring your own taste to someone else's, then I sympathise with people in that category. I've bought houses with mauve stairs, orange bedrooms and lime-green kitchens. You must be seriously under-stimulated if you need your stairwell to energise you in the morning.
- Spiked! – 01.11.2001
Risk, science and society. The alternative is to be rational in the scientific sense, and with this in mind the Social Issues Research Centre formed a working party that considered how scientific issues should be discussed by the media (38). It touched on the quality of the work and the reputation of the workers involved in the issue, the extent of peer review, the nature and reputation of the institution involved in the work, and so on. (Sir Colin Berry)
- Aberdeen Evening Press – 25.10.2001
Teenage Kicks. Leading psychologist Dr Peter Marsh, of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, said the recent episodes were a classic case of youths letting off pent up aggression and proving they're Jack the Lad. "Youth groups provide a sense of belonging," he said. "Some members might not be very bright at school or have a good job or even any job, but they can gain recognition and status through committing acts of crime…In the olden days games like football were an excuse for lads from neighbouring villages to get together and have a fight. The fact there was a ball was incidental. What we need is a better understanding of what aggression is all about and more tolerance for that being channelled in other ways. In years gone by if two lads had a fight in a playground, teachers generally kept their distance unless it became too serious. Now you'd have the police and social workers involved." But he warned that some youths would always shun recreational facilities. They want to stand apart from society – to be boss. "We blame a lot of society's ills on drink but some lads will go out looking for a fight whether or not they have a can of lager in their hand. Three thousand years ago, the great philosophers wrote about youths not respecting their elders and being wayward and violent."
- BBC – Berkshire – 08.10.2001
Behind the headlines – the GM debate. Think-tank the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) thinks bashing biotech over GM has reached hysterical proportions.It sees no benefit in knocking biotech firms for developing GM technology, mainly because it misses the potential benefits such technology could bring to the developing world. "This is where the debate must now be focused – not on fanciful, anti-science dogmas but on frameworks for the governance of new technologies," reads a SIRC editorial on GM foods.
- Knight Ridder Tribune – 17.09.2001
Too much caution in using new technologies will condemn millions. The precautionary principle does have some utility. In the words of the Social Issues Research Center in Oxford, England, "If we apply the precautionary principle to itself andask what are the possible dangers of using this principle, we would be forced to abandon it very quickly."
- Western Daily Press – 01.09.2001
Fears for West Fans on World Cup Trail; German police warn of 'hooligan army'
… last night Dr Peter Marsh, of the Social Issues Research Centre, warned over-zealous policing could be a problem for genuine fans. He condemned police in Brussels for their 'preemptive strike' on law abiding English supporters at last summer's European Championships. Dr Marsh said: "It was absurd. I have met people who were there and were treated in this indiscriminate way – it was absolutely horrendous. I have spoken to people who say they were treated like animals and that it was no wonder some people reacted like animals."
- Deutsche Presse Agentur – 03.08.2001
Bid for rival football team sparks anti-Semitic debate in Hungary. Hungarian football has been feeling the heat in recent days – and not only on the field, with Jewish organizations alleging anti-Semitism and incitement of public hatred by a local politician following the sale of a popular Budapest club. "The ownership of football is a very emotional issue," said Peter Marsh, Co-director of the U.K.-based Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) and researcher into football-related violence. "This is especially true when you are talking about the loyalty of the fans. When the fans become hostile about these kinds of moves, they will use all that is available to them, be it anti-Semitism or racism."
- Health Promotion Journal of Australia – August 2001
The Future of Dietary Health Promotion. The identity crisis in health promotion is causing many problems for the field of dietary health promotion. We do not know enough about the determinants of major health problems to be able to make rational recommendations for dietary changes, and rational courses of health promotion are greatly complicated by conflicting financial interests and ideologies … In official eyes, most of us are sick. We believe that we are sick and such beliefs tend to be self-fulfilling. We are becoming hypochondriacs. This is an undesirable effect of health promotion. The Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in Oxford has coined the term ‘riskfactorphobia’. As a result of a steady stream of health warnings, large numbers of people have come to view life as a minefield of hazards. The resulting fear-ridden lifestyle is plausibly a major source of ill-health. While the SIRC has been criticised by the British Medical Journal as being anything but impartial, there is a great deal of evidence from other sources that irrational and ill-founded health warnings drive a great deal of behaviour that is likely to be harmful.
- Scottish Daily Record – 23.07.2001
Speed. Though Cresta Run riders know they are likely to be hurt, they still do it. Psychiatrist Dr Peter Marsh says: "We are programmed to take risks, because we want to prove ourselves – young males in particular want to prove their courage and their potential attractiveness to the opposite sex." While humans share this characteristic with other animals, there is one thing that sets us apart – we can exceed our natural speed limit, because we have developed machines.
- Austin Business Journal – 20.07.2001
Appearances count – to the point of bias? The Social Issues Research Center in Oxford, United Kingdom, is an independent, nonprofit organization that conducts research on social and lifestyle issues and monitors and assesses global sociocultural trends. SIRC released a recent report which says "Attractive people have distinct advantages in our society … Studies show attractive applicants have a better chance of getting jobs and of receiving higher salaries. One U.S. study found that taller men earned around $600 per inch more than shorter executives."
- Sunday Times – 03.07.2001
We're so bad. Imagine being told that your genes put you in a high-risk category for cancer or heart disease. The good news is that, by changing your lifestyle, you can improve your chances of staying healthy. What do you have to do? The answer is surprising. A recent review in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that telling people they are susceptible to disease doesn't automatically spur them on to make changes. Indeed, some studies suggest that people who hear bad news become fatalistic – less likely than average to give up dangerous habits … Dr Peter Marsh, a social psychologist and co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre, argues that humans have evolved as a species that take risks, otherwise prehistoric man would never have emerged from his cave. "That basic element in psychology seems to have been forgotten." So, even if the new health campaigns can't persuade you to switch lifestyles, perhaps you shouldn't feel too bad about it. Try blaming your inner caveman.
- Birmingham Post – 03.07.2001
Food for thought. So why are more of us than ever stuffing our faces with more calories than we are burning off? One reason, according to Dr Peter Marsh, co-director of the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre, is that food is more accessible and more affordable than ever before. 'One of our natural instincts is to eat food when it's available; it's an evolutionary thing,' he says. 'So when food is all around us our intake goes up. Dr Marsh doesn't think obesity and the rise of the super waif model are unrelated. An obsessive desire to be slim leads to an obsession with food, the result of which can be eating more rather than less. 'We have become very distressed about our food and once people are worried it makes food-related problems worse,' he says. Dr Marsh believes the middle classes particularly have 'lost the plot' when it comes to food. 'People's relationship with food has broken down … In the past we had quite reasonable things to be afraid of, but now we don't, so we invent fanciful things. This feeds into an obsessive relationship with food, which can either make us a fragile anorexic or a gluttonous over-eater.'
- Evening Standard – 29.06.2001
Misunderstood: White Van Man. He may be famous for cutting up other motorists and bawling them out but according to new research, White Van Man – the epitome of the excessively aggressive male driver – is really just misunderstood. A month-long roving study of more than 250 White Van Men by the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre, designed to get under the skin of Britain's most reviled road users, has concluded that "the public and media perception of White Van Man is a gross caricature of reality".
- Sunday Herald – 03.06.2001
Accounting for differences between sexes over money. Investments: When it comes to making investment decisions, men and women in Scotland take quite different approaches, according to research carried out by social anthropologist Kate Fox. Financial services group Virgin Direct commissioned the research from the co-director of the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre. Men like to take big risks, seeing investment as a refined form of gambling, whereas women play it safe by opting for deposit accounts. Day traders and high-risk share gamblers are almost exclusively male. That picture is not typical in the United States, however, where female investors are more confident and sophisticated. Fox claims that the differing attitudes have their origin in evolution. She said: "Women were attracted to men who took risks because they were looking for someone who could feed and protect their family.
- Sunday Times – 02.06.2001
We're so bad. We know certain habits are deadly yet blithely continue. It's not our fault, we're programmed to take risks, says Thelma Agnew … Dr Peter Marsh, a social psychologist and co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre, argues that humans have evolved as a species that take risks, otherwise prehistoric man would never have emerged from his cave. "That basic element in psychology seems to have been forgotten." So, even if the new health campaigns can't persuade you to switch lifestyles, perhaps you shouldn't feel too bad about it. Try blaming your inner caveman.
- Klik Magazin – 25.05.2001
Zene 21. stoljeca su odvacniji spol americke ekonomije. Otkrica dolaze iz istrazivanja o stavovima prema riziku s obzirom na spol koje je proveo Social Issues Research Centre u suradnji s Virgin Direct. Iako se istrazivanje usredotocilo na stavove prema riziku u ulaganju, uzelo je u obzir i odnos rizika i seksualne privlacnosti i jesu li oni koji vise riskiraju popularniji.
- Mail on Sunday – 20.05.2001
Your say: Sex, the City and saving. Kate Fox, a social anthropologist and author of the report, says: 'Women still tread carefully when managing money. They don't like risks and are often happy to let men take the decisions. Men see financial risk as a part of life, something to be accepted and enjoyed.
- Independent on Sunday – 20.05.2001
A man's world no more. It turns out that, being female, I am more cautious with my investments than the next man. And I mean man. According to research from the Social Issues Research Centre, on behalf of Virgin Direct, men are more "gung-ho" when it comes to investing. They are more likely to go in for day trading, while women prefer "totally secure" mortgages, savings and investments.
- Guardian – 19.05.2001
Now women are the braver sex. Although in the UK it is still the case that while the women are responsible for the bulk of day-to-day financial transactions, most of the investing is still done by men. These findings come from a report on attitudes to risk and gender differences carried out by the Social Issues Research Centre, in conjunction with Vigin Direct, called Sex and the City.
- BBC – 18.05.2001
Are women better investors than men? Women are more reluctant than men to follow higher risk investment strategies such as buying stocks and shares, according to new research … When they do take risks, women tend to be more rational and consistent and less impulsive than men," Kate Fox, author of the Sex in the City report told BBC News Online … "What men consider to be brave, women can often see as stupid and gullible."
- Dads and Daughters – 08.05.2001
Body Image – No Diet! Did you know that May 6 was International No-Diet Day (INDD)? … According to the Social Issued Research Centre, an Oxford(UK)-based non-profit research institute: "Standards of female beauty have in fact become progressively more unrealistic during the 20th century. In 1917, the physically perfect woman was about 5ft 4in tall and weighed nearly 10 stone [140 lb]. Even 25 years ago, top models and beauty queens weighed only 8% less than the average woman, now they weigh 23% less. The current media ideal for women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population." … Do take a look at their summary of research findings on body image at: http://www.sirc.org/publik/mirror.html.
- Indpendent – 15.04.2001
On safari in the suburban jungle. Peter Marsh, an Oxford-based academic whose published books includes Driving Passion: The Psychology of the Car, believes vehicle manufacturers are encouraging aggression among 4x4 drivers by promoting them as a "macho" fashion accessory. "This is very much about image," he said. "These things are traditionally marketed as allowing the freedom to climb over rough terrain. It gives motorists a sense of mastery and derring-do." Dr Marsh, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre, added: "Another danger is that, once you put people in cars that are built like tanks, the whole psychology of convincing them they are safe and protected makes them feel invulnerable, and this reduces their attention when they are driving."
- Sunday Express – 01.04.2001
Beautiful people really do have easier lives, says a new study. "However irrational it may be, a lot of us believe subconsciously that the "good, beautiful princess" and "bad, ugly stepmother" stereotypes are true, so good-looking people do actually get better jobs and have an easier time socially then the unattractive or ugly," says Kate Fox, a social anthropologist based at the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford … However, being young and gorgeous doesn't necessarily mean you will have higher self-esteem either. "This is another area where the beautiful may suffer," adds Kate Fox. "For example, studies show that if a beautiful woman is judged highly in a competition and she knows the examiner was shown a photo of her, she is likely to think she got the mark because of her good looks."
- Sun – 23.03.2001
Brits scoff at a crisis. Britons are tucking into more desserts to cheer themselves up, it was revealed yesterday. Demand for sweets like creamy puddings and eclairs has soared over the past few months of train chaos, fuel shortages and lousy weather, say Tesco. Food psychologist Dr Peter Marsh said: "In times of crisis, eating feel-good foods is a natural human reaction."
- Alpha Gallileo – 20.03.2001
Science People Can Trust. (Speech by Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, 20 march 2001, at the Institute of Physics) "We need the media to report science in a responsible manner. But that also calls for scientists to develop a better understanding of dealing with the media, to ensure they explain issues clearly and in jargon-free terms. The Royal Society and the Social Issues Research Centre have produced guidelines for editors and for scientists working with the media. I believe this is a very helpful contribution and hope that this will be actively used by the media and science communities."
- Agence France Presse 14.03.2001
First, there was the beef infected with a brain-destroying agent. Then chicken, tainted with toxic dioxin. After that, "Frankenfood": the creepy-sounding saga of genetically-engineered crops … Peter Marsh, a psychologist who is director of the Social Issues Research Centre, an independent British think tank, [says] "The idea that the man in the white coat says it's OK is no longer accepted by people as something that is necessarily going to reassure them, especially after BSE," he said in a phone interview. "Perhaps that's not a bad thing, because it forces science to justify its role. But if dispassionate, rational scientific debate goes, all we're left with is quasi-religious mysticism, which seems to me to be extremely dangerous. It's like a return to the Dark Ages … "We now live in societies and cultures which are the safest they've ever been, where the food doesn't kill you, where people don't die of scurvy and malnutrition -- so we are now having to inject some concerns, some fears and some worries back into our otherwise safe and therefore quite dull lives."
- Spiked! – 08.03.2001
Greenfield cites. How should scientists respond, when the products of experimentation, from stem cell research to GM food, are capable of generating whole weeks' worth of alarming headlines? With the advice of an impressive range of science journalists and scientists, Greenfield has addressed this question through helping to develop and promote a new code of conduct for the media and scientists, instigated by Dr Peter Marsh and Kate Fox from the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford … For Greenfield, the importance of such a code of conduct is clearly demonstrated by the frenzied media coverage generated by Arpad Pusztai's pronouncements on 'poisonous' GM potatoes in February 1999. His pronouncements were later discredited among scientists, but retained their resonance amongst the public.
- Sunday Times – 04.03.2001
They're trying to lower the pulse of real life. Telling us that speed kills and asking us to slow down is a bit like asking us to ignore gravity. We don't drive fast because we're in a hurry; we drive fast because it pushes the arousal buttons, makes us feel alive, makes us feel human. Dr Peter Marsh, from the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, says the recent rise in popularity of bungee jumping, parachuting and other extreme sports is simply man's reaction to the safer, cotton-woolly society that's being created. He told me this week that, when the youth of Blackbird Leys in Oxford was stealing cars and doing handbrake turns back in the 1990s, a number of liberal commentators called to ask him why. "It's funny," he said. "These kids steal a really good car, take it back to their housing estate and charge around, with all their friends cheering and applauding. They are having a laugh, and making the police look like fools on television, and you have to ask why!" [Jeremy Clarkson]
- Hansard – 19.02.2001
Science and Society: Select Committee Report. Lord Taverne: "The Committee's report includes and commends helpful guidelines by the Royal Society for both editors and scientists working with the media. However, I want to commend the fuller code of practice proposed by the body referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin; the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. I played a minute part in the preparation of the report but it is nevertheless of excellent quality. It has many distinguished contributors, including people such as Sir John Krebs and Professor Susan Greenfield … The code which is recommended by the SIRC starts by demonstrating how important it is to get science stories right. Misleading stories can be positively dangerous, and can even cost lives. The MMR vaccine and the pill scares are cases in point. Indeed, false hopes can also be raised which can have a devastating effect on people with terminal illnesses. If the recommendations were adopted by the Press, many of the problems relating to the public's understanding of science would be solved."
- Tehelka – February 2001
Fat chance of football winning the Nobel! According to the Social Issues Research Centre – an organisation that has extensively researched the relationship between the sport and social aggression – football has been associated with violence since its beginnings in 13th Century England. "Medieval football matches involved hundreds of players, and were essentially pitched battles between the young men of rival villages and towns – often used as opportunities to settle old feuds, personal arguments and land disputes."
- Financial Times – 31.01.2001
Behind the laws: Privatisation, the EU and an increasingly risk-averse society have spurred the rise of rules. Lord Haskins, head of the task force, thinks the biggest driver of regulation is that we live in an increasingly risk-averse society, which appears to believe governments can and should protect us from every conceivable potential threat. Kate Fox, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, refers to this as "risk factor phobia", a condition in which people overreact to scare stories by demanding an impossible level of protection. This is what prompted Jack Cunningham, the former agriculture minister, to ban beef on the bone at the height of the scare over variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease, even though the risk was minuscule. Public concern also led parliament to pass the Dangerous Dogs Act, now regarded as unworkable, after a campaign by tabloid newspapers.
- Glasgow Herald – 29.01.2001
Inspiration strikes at oddest of moments. Men have bright ideas while in the pub, driving or sitting on the lavatory, while women find inspiration when talking to friends, according to a survey. People's use of creative or lateral thinking in problem solving was explored by Virgin One, Sir Richard Branson's all-in-one mortgage provider. With the aid of Dr Peter Marsh, psychologist, and interviews with a representative sample of 1000 adults, the report also studied the value of common and uncommon sense approaches to everyday difficulties. Dr Marsh said: "Overall, both men and women are more likely to have 'Eureka' moments when they are relaxing. Men see sitting on the lavatory as an opportunity for creative thought, while women are significantly more likely than men to obtain creative solutions to problems when talking things through with other people. "For them, coming up with ideas that make uncommon sense is much more of a social activity than it is for men."
- Sunday Mirror – 28.01.2001
Women really do know best – and that's official. It is what women have always known and men have tried to deny. Now there's scientific proof…women are the ones with the most common sense. An experiment involving more than 1,000 volunteers found that women are WORSE than men at solving riddles. But that's because men use more lateral-style thinking – called uncommon sense – while women use common sense to sort things out. Dr Peter Marsh said: "These findings support the traditional view that women have more common sense than men."
- Sunday Telegraph – 28.01.2001
Stay out of my kitchen. "Women don't like other women in their kitchen because it's an invasion of their territory," says the social anthropologist Kate Fox. "It can be stressful enough to hold a dinner party without someone falling over you in a bid to be 'helpful'. There are also some things that a cook wants to put on show and others she wants to keep firmly hidden."
- La Stampa – 17.01.01
èèMorire di Bse? Una probabilità su 4 milioni. E non chiamate i vostri cari sui loro telefonini per chiedere loro consiglio. Potreste ucciderli: covano pesanti sospetti sugli effetti di quel campo elettromagnetico applicato all’orecchio. Insomma, ci sono numerosi elementi per concludere che la vita oggi è pericolosa come non è mai stata prima. Giusto? «Sbagliato», sostiene invece il dottor Peter Marsh del Social Issues Research Center di Oxford, che ha compilato una curiosa e tranquillizzante statistica sulle cause di morte.
- Independent – 14.01.2001
Are too many warnings damaging our health? Given all these risks, it's no surprise that only one in 97 of us will die of natural causes. Modern life is a nightmare, right? Wrong, says Dr Peter Marsh of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. "Life is the safest it has ever been in the entire history of our evolution. There is less disease, we are better fed and better protected, our environment is safer. It is just a shame we feel compelled to invent fanciful and whimsical fears to compensate for the lack of real danger."
- Reader's Digest – January 2001
You shouldn't believe it. "Abortion Could Lead to Breast Cancer," screamed the front page of The Mail on Sunday last August. Given that up to a third of women have abortions, this was major medical news. But, like many of the health stories checked out by our research team, further investigation showed it to be simply not true.
The Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in Oxford, which has studied health reporting in the media, has identified two worrying types of reaction to it. Says SIRC director Dr Peter Marsh. "There are those who suffer from warning fatigue and end up ignoring all health information, whether it's helpful or not. And there is increasing evidence of a growing number of people who suffer from "riskfactorphobia". They overreact to every new scare and follow contradictory advice."
SIRC is so concerned that it has linked up with the Royal Institution and drafted a list of guidelines for science and health journalists. Will they take any notice? "Every little helps," says Susan Greenfield, director of the Royal Institution. "It has been a bad period for science and health reporting. Journalists should think more about the implications of what they're writing. They should understand the context and nuances of a subject. It's all too easy to scaremonger without knowing the real issues."