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After ‘Chocolate Milk’ Scandal, U. of Maryland Will Review How It Communicates Research

The University of Maryland at College Park, stung by criticism over a news release in December that touted the benefits of a specific brand of chocolate milk among high-school athletes who had suffered concussions, has convened a high-level panel to review the incident and how the university communicates research findings.

The Washington Post reports that Patrick O’Shea, a vice president of the university and its chief research officer, assembled the panel to ensure that the campus’s communications about scientific research are trustworthy. “I don’t want this kind of thing to happen again,” Mr. O’Shea told the Post. He added: “We have the public interest at heart, and the reputation of the university is connected to that. The public should be able to rely on what we say.”

The panel will be led by Ann G. Wylie, a former provost at College Park. Members will include a dean and two faculty members at College Park, and Denis Wirtz, who is vice provost for research at the Johns Hopkins University.

The controversy centers on a late-December news release that carried a bulletin stating that a university study had shown that “concussion-related measures improved in high-school football players who drank new chocolate milk.” The release referred to a specific beverage, called Fifth Quarter Fresh, that is produced by a small Maryland company that helped fund the study.

When journalists asked to see the full study, the university could not provide one because the release had been based on preliminary findings that had not been subjected to peer review. The lack of supporting detail for a university-issued news release touting a company product drew some embarrassing media attention. “The University of Maryland has a burgeoning chocolate-milk concussion scandal on its hands,” wrote Jesse Singal, a senior editor at New York magazine.

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