Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: BBC


To mark the centenary of the 1918 influenza pandemic, the broadcasting network BBC have put together a 75-min documentary called ‘Contagion! The BBC Four Pandemic’. Central to the documentary is a nationwide citizen science experiment, during which volunteers in the United Kingdom could download and use a custom mobile phone app called BBC Pandemic, and contribute their movement and contact data for a day. As the ‘maths team’, we were asked to use the data from the app to build and run a model of how a pandemic would spread in the UK. The headline results are presented in the TV programme. Here, we document in detail how the model works, and how we shaped it according the incredibly rich data coming from the BBC Pandemic app. We have barely scratched the depth of the volunteer data available from the app. The work presented in this article had the sole purpose of generating a single detailed simulation of a pandemic influenza-like outbreak in the UK. When the BBC Pandemic app has completed its collection period, the vast dataset will be made available to the scientific community (expected early 2019). It will take much more time and input from a broad range of researchers to fully exploit all that this dataset has to offer. But here at least we were able to harness some of the power of the BBC Pandemic data to contribute something which we hope will capture the interest and engagement of a broad audience.

Concepts: Influenza, Science, United Kingdom, BBC World Service, Radio, 1918 flu pandemic, Television, BBC


In conjunction with BBC Lab UK, the present study developed 12 brief psychological skill interventions for online delivery. A protocol was designed that captured data via self-report measures, used video recordings to deliver interventions, involved a competitive concentration task against an individually matched computer opponent, and provided feedback on the effects of the interventions. Three psychological skills were used; imagery, self-talk, and if-then planning, with each skill directed to one of four different foci: outcome goal, process goal, instruction, or arousal-control. This resulted in 12 different intervention participant groups (randomly assigned) with a 13th group acting as a control. Participants (n = 44,742) completed a competitive task four times-practice, baseline, following an intervention, and again after repeating the intervention. Results revealed performance improved following practice with incremental effects for imagery-outcome, imagery-process, and self-talk-outcome and self-talk-process over the control group, with the same interventions increasing the intensity of effort invested, arousal and pleasant emotion. Arousal-control interventions associated with pleasant emotions, low arousal, and low effort invested in performance. Instructional interventions were not effective. Results offer support for the utility of online interventions in teaching psychological skills and suggest brief interventions that focus on increasing motivation, increased arousal, effort invested, and pleasant emotions were the most effective.

Concepts: Psychology, Participation, Skill, Learning, Neuropsychology, Emotion, BBC


To assess longitudinal associations between screen based media use (television and computer hours, having a TV in the bedroom) and body fatness among UK children.

Concepts: Vacuum tube, Cohort study, Longitudinal study, Cohort, United Kingdom, Radio, Television, BBC


The media have a key role in communicating advances in medicine to the general public, yet the accuracy of medical journalism is an under-researched area. This project adapted an established monitoring instrument to analyse all identified news reports (n = 312) on a single medical research paper: a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Cancer which showed a modest link between processed meat consumption and pancreatic cancer. Our most significant finding was that three sources (the journal press release, a story on the BBC News website and a story appearing on the ‘NHS Choices’ website) appeared to account for the content of over 85% of the news stories which covered the meta analysis, with many of them being verbatim or moderately edited copies and most not citing their source. The quality of these 3 primary sources varied from excellent (NHS Choices, 10 of 11 criteria addressed) to weak (journal press release, 5 of 11 criteria addressed), and this variance was reflected in the accuracy of stories derived from them. Some of the methods used in the original meta-analysis, and a proposed mechanistic explanation for the findings, were challenged in a subsequent commentary also published in the British Journal of Cancer, but this discourse was poorly reflected in the media coverage of the story.

Concepts: Oncology, Systematic review, Pancreatic cancer, Newspaper, Mass media, BBC, BBC News Online, BBC News


Simultaneously define diet, physical activity, television (TV) viewing, and sleep duration across cardiometabolic disease groups, and investigate clustering of non-diet lifestyle behaviours.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Diabetes mellitus type 2, Obesity, Cardiovascular disease, United Kingdom, Radio, Television, BBC


In 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched Tips From Former Smokers (Tips), the first federally funded national tobacco education campaign. In 2013, a follow-up Tips campaign aired on national cable television networks, radio, and other channels, with supporting digital advertising to drive traffic to the Tips campaign website.

Concepts: World Wide Web, Satellite television, Mass media, Television, Television network, Coaxial cable, BBC, Cable television


Obesity among Black women continues to exceed that of other women. Most weight loss programs created without reference to specific cultural contexts are less effective for Black than White women. Weight control approaches accessible to Black women and adapted to relevant cultural contexts are important for addressing this problem. This paper reports the final results of SisterTalk, the randomized controlled trial of a cable TV weight control program oriented toward Black women.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Black people, United Kingdom, White people, Dieting, Satellite television, Television network, BBC


A disaster referred to by the press as the ‘UK flooding crisis’ occurred between December 2015 and January 2016. This study employed three different levels of analysis to identify a multidimensional perspective adopted in the disaster reporting of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). These levels revealed details about the social actors and their interactions. The set of news exposed diverse viewpoints on the crisis, from loss and damage to distinct affected subgroups to the various social engagement actions of aid and the multiplicity of technical response measures. The conclusions highlight considerable social amplitude in the BBC’s coverage; however, owing to the reductionist approach of this media communicator, the field of action involving different social actors was not very clear in the content of the news, particularly with regard to cohesion, conflict/obstruction, and concernthe concept of crisis in its essence. In addition, the paper suggests new questions for future reports.

Concepts: BBC World Service, Television, Actor, BBC, BBC One, 2016, British Broadcasting Company, Mark Thompson


This paper explores the past, present and future role of broadcasting, above all via the medium of television, in shaping how societies talk, think about and act on climate change and sustainability issues. The paper explores these broad themes via a focus on the important but relatively neglected issue of material demand and opportunities for its reduction. It takes the outputs and decision-making of one of the world’s most influential broadcasters, the BBC, as its primary focus. The paper considers these themes in terms of stories, touching on some of the broader societal frames of understanding into which they can be grouped. Media decision-makers and producers from a range of genres frequently return to the centrality of ‘story’ in the development, commissioning and production of an idea. With reference to specific examples of programming, and drawing on interviews with media practitioners, the paper considers the challenges of generating broadcast stories that can inspire engagement in issues around climate change, and specifically material demand. The concluding section proposes actions and approaches that might help to establish material demand reduction as a prominent way of thinking about climate change and environmental issues more widely.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Material demand reduction’.

Concepts: Thought, Sustainability, Society, Theme, The Medium, Television, Broadcasting, BBC


People have an enduring fascination with the biology of the oceans. When the BBC’s ‘Blue Planet’ series first aired on British television almost a quarter of the nation tuned in. As the diversity of science in this special issue of Current Biology attests, the ocean presents a challenging environment for study while also exhibiting some of the most profound and disruptive symptoms of global change. Marine science has made major advances in the past few decades, which were primarily made possible through important technological innovations. This progress notwithstanding, there are persistent challenges in achieving an understanding of marine processes at appropriate scales and delivering meaningful insights to guide ocean policy and management. Naturally, the examples chosen below betray my ecological leanings, but I hope that many of the issues raised resonate with readers in many different disciplines.

Concepts: Ecology, Oceanography, Natural environment, Greek loanwords, Sea, Ocean, Marine biology, BBC