House of Numbers

September 26th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in africa, aids, bad science | 93 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 26 September 2009, The Guardian.

This week, listening to the Guardian Science podcast, I had a treat. Caspar Melville, editor of New Humanist magazine, leader of something called the Rationalist Association, had been to see two films at the Cambridge Film Festival. One was a dreary creationist movie that famously misrepresented the biologists interviewed for it. This was obvious bad science, he explained. But the other was different: House of Numbers, a new film about Aids, really had something in it. Read the rest of this entry »

Protecting the powerful is a feature, not a bug

September 21st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, legal chill, libel, politics | 45 Comments »

Here’s a quick piece about libel that I bashed out on request for CiF, covers ground you’ll have read before but it’s always good to keep libel alive in peoples’ minds. Read the rest of this entry »

Correction

September 19th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 12 Comments »

I’m very happy to post a quick correction. Read the rest of this entry »

Blueprint fail

September 19th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, evidence based policy, politics, schools | 14 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 19 September 2009, The Guardian

This week at a debate in the Royal Institute I was told off by the science minister for not praising good science reporting, because journalists – famously kind to their targets – are sensitive to criticism. So before we dismantle this Home Office report on drugs policy, can I just say I’m sure they’ve probably produced some other perfectly acceptable reports, and I shouldn’t like any brittle souls in government to be dispirited by the criticisms that will now follow.

The Blueprint programme is an intensive schools intervention to reduce problematic drug use, and a lengthy research project to see if it works – costing at least £6m – finished some years ago. We have been waiting for the results ever since, and this quote from Vernon Coaker, then Minister for Drugs & Crime Reduction, explains what we have been waiting for: “The Blueprint drugs education programme is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a multi-component approach to school-based drug education… The programme is currently being evaluated to determine its impact on all drug use.”

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“How to read articles about health” – by Dr Alicia White

September 16th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in guest writers, media | 31 Comments »

This is something that came up on the Five Live discussion with Lord Drayson at lunchtime today. Simon Mayo pulled out a front page story from the Express about a breakthrough cancer drug, and asked us what we’d make of it. Having not read it, I said I’d regard it with caution, because it might be true, but being on the front page of the Express is not necessarily a reliable predictor of something being true, as this story would attest, to choose just one example. Lord Drayson felt that was unfair, and that people can decide for themselves if a story is good or bad.

I think that’s optimistic, but we can certainly do something productive to give people a fighting chance. People often ask “how can I spot bad science in a newspaper article?” as if there were a list of easy answers, and it can be very difficult – given the lengths newspapers go to in distorting evidence, and witholding facts – but here is an excellent set of pointers. Read the rest of this entry »

Debate with Lord Drayson on rubbish science coverage live streamed @ 7pm

September 16th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, politics | 23 Comments »

The debate with Lord Drayson (who assures me he will attend in full “lord” fancy dress) will be streamed live from 7pm at:

www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/webcast.html Read the rest of this entry »

Medical Hypotheses fails the Aids test

September 12th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in africa, aids, bad science | 61 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 12 September 2009, The Guardian

This week the peer review system has been in the newspapers, after a survey of scientists suggested it had some problems. This is barely news. Peer review – where articles submitted to an academic journal are reviewed by other scientists from the same field for an opinion on their quality – has always been recognised as problematic. It is timeconsuming, it could be open to corruption, and it cannot prevent fraud, plagiarism, or duplicate publication, although in a more obvious case it might. The problem with peer review is, it’s hard to find anything better.

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Please give us all your money

September 5th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in africa, aids, bad science, big pharma, patents | 90 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 5 September 2009, The Guardian

How do patents affect science? This week in India, US drug company Gilead lost their appeal to stop local companies making cheap copies of their Aids drug Tenofovir. They are not alone: in 2007 Novartis lost a lengthy case trying to force the Indian government into strengthening their weak patent laws. India remains the free pharmacy of the world.

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