Here are a couple of fairly detailed interviews I’ve done over the last two weeks, both on the problem of clinical trial results being withheld.
As you’ll hopefully know by now from reading Bad Science, Bad Pharma, and my endless columns on the subject, medicine has a problem: the results of clinical trials are routinely and legally withheld from doctors, researchers, and patients. We started the AllTrials.net campaign two years ago to build a global campaign on this issue, and we’ll be publishing a big roundup of what we’ve done soon, along with (crucially, I think) our tactics and methods, in a spirit of pooling knowledge on how to achieve policy change for problems in science. Please do get your professional body to sign up.
This week there was an amazing landmark announcement from the World Health Organisation: they have come out and said that everyone must share the results of their clinical trials, within 12 months of completion, including old trials (since those are the trials conducted on currently used treatments). This is great news, but it’s not enough. The WHO announcement was in PLoS Medicine, with a commentary from WHO staff explaining their reasoning (it’s very good) and a commentary from me, explaining why we need to audit missing data, and act on that audit data.
This, I think, is the only way forward. We have seen that the FDA are unwilling to implement the laws they have available to them, and that other countries such as the UK are unwilling even to consider such legislation. In the absence of serious engagement on this issue from the policy community, now doctors, payers (such as the NHS), and enlightened funders need to take action themselves. If we fail to do so, we may be judged harshly by our patients. Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s a 5 minute film I did on Newsnight last week, about how politics needs better data. Specifically, it’s about how politicians misuse statistics, how we can stop them, and how we can generate better evidence on what works, and what fails.
If you’re interested in more on this topic, well… there are some good examples of dodgy government stats on this site, and in the chapter on Dodgy Government Statistics in my latest book. For more about randomised trials of government policy, here’s a Radio 4 documentary I did on them, here’s a Cabinet Office paper I co-authored on them, and they crop up in this that I did for the Department of Education. If that’s not enough then I’ll write some more.
I took great pride in the fact that my book Bad Science was first reviewed by Viz and the British Medical Journal. In that vein, here’s a 90 minute interview I did on stage with comedian Richard Herring in the Leicester Square Theatre. I have bad hair, we cover a lot of dorky material – epidemiology, medical politics, smears, govt statistics, evidence based policy – he keeps steering the conversation back to my penis. I think it’s an interesting format.
This is something I’ve often covered. In this story, for example, the BMJ’s own press release about their own paper was hopelessly and entirely misleading. And after this story, featuring a misleading press release from Great Ormond Street Hospital, the head of that institution wrote a paranoid and misguided defense (which I have proudly reprinted, in my new book, in full). Read the rest of this entry »
YouGov have produced a fun, popular new parlour game. You give the site the name of a celebrity, author, TV show, pet, activity, or anything; and it gives you a lot more information in return. Essentially: “other things that such a person typically does and likes”. So, the “favourite dishes” of people who read Ben Goldacre books are Vegetarian Thali, Gravlax (whatever that is), and Pork Gyoza. Fans of comedian Richard Herring report that their favourite TV show is Stewart Lee (insensitive, given the *bitter* rivalry). Newsnight profiled their viewers at the end of their show on Tuesday (self-absorbed and listen to New Order). It’s fun to play around with.
But these statistics have been misinterpreted, because they have been mis-presented by YouGov.
Read the rest of this entry »
There are a few London talks and events coming up over the next few weeks, all very different, and more to come around the country soon:
Monday 17th Nov – Richard Herring Leicester Square Podcast
This show is a great institution: comedian Richard Herring interviews comedians and the occasional nerd in front of a live audience, there are tickets for the live recording, and then a free podcast online which has won Sony awards and stuff. Lots of previous episodes available online here, including Steve Coogan, Mary Beard, Stephen Fry, etc. Tickets online here, I’m up the same night as Sue Perkins who is awesome.
Monday 1st December – Conway Hall Nerd Night
Conway hall is a great institution, with lots of good events, worth a trip and worth joining. At this and the Foyles event below I think I’ll do a brand new lecture/show I’ve just written. Tickets online here, massive discount for students and members.
Monday December 8th – Foyles Bookshop, W1
Foyles has moved, I’ve not seen the new shop yet but genuinely looking forward to it as they’re an institution and bookshops are good. The talk is in their new events space at 7pm, tickets online here: smaller room, so I might do a more meandering talk, depending on what people seem to want on the night.
Books and signing at each of them if that’s your thing (definitely for the last two). For an easy Christmas you could surprise everyone by doggedly giving them my canon with a stern smile: this is especially useful shopping advice for families with ideological rifts around quackery, vaccines, science etc.
If you want to know what my talks are like there are some videos below, and more around the site. See you out!
Here’s a talk I did last year that’s just popped up online. The Cochrane Collaboration is a fabulous organisation, producing gold standard “systematic reviews” summarising all the data that’s ever been collected on important questions in medicine. Cochrane have become great by inviting criticism: for example, they run the Silverman Prize, for the best essay or paper pointing out stuff that they’ve got wrong. At their 21st birthday conference, they asked me to do a talk on what they should do next. I said they should get better at talking to patients; better at talking to policy makers; and better at talking to machines. Here’s the talk: Read the rest of this entry »
It looks lovely.
Here is the introduction.
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This is a collection of my most fun fights: but the fighting is just an excuse. There’s nothing complicated about science, and people can understand anything, if they’re sufficiently motivated. Coincidentally, people like fights. That’s why I’ve spent the last ten years lashing science to mockery: it’s the cleanest way I know to help people see the joy of statistics, and the fascinating ways that evidence Read the rest of this entry »
Taking epidemiology to the streets: here’s a long, long interview I did last week on Absolute FM (lovely Geoff Lloyd’s lovely Hometime Show).
Posting here because it’s unusually good and long for pop media. In between the rock classics, we talk about screening, Ebola, government statistics, and good quality sperm.
My lovely new book – I Think You’ll Find It’s A Bit More Complicated Than That – is out in two days. It’s a collection of short pieces, an epidemiology and research methods toilet book, if you will. More here and here. You should buy it for everyone you know, to make your squabbles more interesting.
Podcast link here.