Formula for a successful press release

Completely fictional scientists at a made up university have announced today that they have discovered the formula for a successful press release. The newsworthyness of a story, known in the trade as its Arnall quotient, can be written as:

Arnall = B0/10cKs

You may not be familiar with Cliff Arnall but you’ve probably read “his” “research”. Well you can read it at Yahoo!. You can’t read it at the BBC anymore possibly because someone noticed that this year’s formula for the happiest day of the year story bore a striking similarity to last year’s formula for the happiest day of the year story. That one was B0/10cKs too.

The formula, if that’s the right word, is:

O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He

O stands for outdoor activities, N for nature, S for social interaction, Cpm for childhood summers and positive memories, T for temperature and He for holidays and looking forward to time off.

It raises some puzzles.

How do you measure Nature? How can you say there’s exactly 1.35 times more nature in one place than another? Further, because he’s dividing by temperature we are apparently happier when it’s colder. We’d all be cock-a-hoop if the next Ice Age started this weekend. As for holidays he’s saying the fewer holidays you have the happier you are and if you cannot take time off then (dividing by zero) you’re infinitely happy.

He’s also calculated the equation for election motivation, the best day for New Years Resolutions and the most depressing day of the year. That last one uses a different formula to his happy formula which leads to the possible result that the happiest day of the year isn’t the least depressing. That would be profound if it wasn’t such nonsense. It’s almost as if he doesn’t understand his own work.

Which is possibly true.

A report recently in Times Higher showed that Cliff Arnall discovered his depression day after Gary Wood at Birmingham decided not to. There is a scam going on in the push for free publicity. I invent a spurious equation to plug my product, you add your name to it to give it a sheen of academic credibility and I pay you a small sum for your soul effort.

Is the happy equation one of these publicity scams?

“Happiness is associated with many things in life and can be triggered by a variety of events. Whether it’s a sunny day, a childhood memory, or something as effortless as eating a delicious ice cream, I wanted my formula to prove the key to happiness can really be that simple.”

…said Cliff Arnall talking about his work commissioned by ice cream maker Walls.

I seem to keep coming across opinion pieces about why the public no longer trusts scientists recently. I read another in NewScientist this week. When this sort of story is approved by a university researcher can you blame them?

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4 Responses to Formula for a successful press release

  1. Ole says:

    Well, doesn’t it strike you, that the formula of the Arnall quotient, or rather what comes after the equation mark, spells “bollocks?”
    Please read the equation again: Arnall = B0/10cKs
    Yours sincerely,
    Ole, Copenhagen 😉

  2. […] research from a medic, and blogs such as Garlicksmack, The Guardian’s newsblog, and Integrated Science . A summary of the formula and criticisms of it can be found on […]

  3. […] Integrated Sciences blog (Formula for a succesful Press Release). […]

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