Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 24 September 2011
Last week the Daily Mail and the Today programme took some bait from Aric Sigman, an author of popular sciencey books about the merits of traditional values. “Sending babies and toddlers to daycare could do untold damage to the development of their brains and their future health,” explained the Mail.
These news stories were based on a scientific paper by Sigman in The Biologist. It misrepresents individual studies, as Professor Dorothy Bishop demonstrated almost immediately, and it cherry-picks the scientific literature, selectively referencing only the studies that support Sigman’s view. Normally this charge of cherry-picking would take a column of effort to prove, but this time Sigman himself admits it, frankly, in a PDF posted on his own website. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 13 August 2011
While the authorities are distracted by mass disorder, we can do some statistics. You’ll have seen plenty of news stories telling you that one part of the brain is bigger, or smaller, in people with a particular mental health problem, or even a specific job. These are generally based on real, published scientific research. But how reliable are the studies?
One way of critiquing a piece of research is to read the academic paper itself, in detail, looking for flaws. But that might not be enough, if some sources of bias might exist outside the paper, in the wider system of science.
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Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 21 May 2011
Here’s no surprise: beliefs which we imagine to be rational are bound up in all kinds of other stuff. Political stances, for example, correlate with various personality features. One major review in 2003 looked at 38 different studies, containing data on 20,000 participants, and found that overall, political conservatism was associated with things like death anxiety, fear of threat and loss, intolerance of uncertainty, a lack of openness to experience, and a need for order, structure, and closure. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday 8 May 2009
In Australia a fascinating court case has been playing out around some people who had heart attacks after taking the Merck drug Vioxx. This medication turned out to increase the risk of heart attacks in people taking it, although that finding was arguably buried in their research, and Merck have paid out more than £2bn to 44,000 people in America, although they deny any fault. British users of the drug have had their application for legal aid rejected, incidentally: health minister Ivan Lewis promised to help them, but FOI documents obtained by The Guardian last week showed that within hours, Merck launched an expensive lobbying effort that convinced him to back off.
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Saturday October 25 2008
Welcome to nerds’ corner, and yet another small print criticism of a trivial act of borderline dubiousness which will ultimately lead to distorted evidence, irrational decisions, and bad outcomes in what I like to call “the real world”.
So the ClinPsyc blog (clinpsyc.blogspot.com ) has spotted that the drug company Lilly have published identical data on duloxetine – a new-ish antidepressant drug – twice over, in two entirely separate scientific papers. Read the rest of this entry »