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The Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield Writing Exercise

Link to writing exercise here

The Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield Writing Exercise

This writing exercise is intended to expose my students to how poor science reporting can affect millions of people.  It is intended to help my students make connections to vaccines and how scientific research affects us on a daily basis.  The connections between misconceptions and public actions are a major factor in science reporting.  Because scientific endeavors can be difficult to understand by the general public, it is my aim to expose how misrepresentation and poor science can cause panic.  This is a reprint (and slight modification for school) of a cartoon by investigative journalist Darryl Cunningham.  The original work can be found at:

Directions for this exercise are as follows:  Read through the cartoon below and write a 2-3 page paper explaining how you see this case and its affects in the scientific community, the public sphere and any possible positive or negative consequences.  This case began to surface in 2009 and has been lingering in the media to this day.  Throughout the paper, please address the questions below.

  • Who is Dr. Andrew Wakefield?
  • What were Wakefield’s claims against the MMR vaccine?
  • How did the sample size (12 children) affect the result of the research?
  • Why was this significant?
  • How did the public percieve these results?
  • Were there any ill affects after these results came out?
  • Other scientific organizations did their own research on this case.  What did they find?
  • How does this affect the debate?
  • In your opinion, Why did Dr. Wakefield conduct his research?
  • Did he act ethically?
  • Who is Richard Barr and what part does he play in this case?
  • Brian Deer investigated this case.  What did he conclude?
  • Were there other serious implications about the research?  Explain.
  • How did the media report this case?
  • Is the media to blame for any of the possible negative affects of this case?  Explain why or why not.
  • State your opinion on how this case will affect future research.
  • How can cases like this be prevented, if at all?  Explain.


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