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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Health Warning: Exercise Makes You Fat

August 29th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, numerical context, telegraph | 80 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 29 August 2009, The Guardian

Why would you listen to a government health message, or your GP practise nurse, when the Sunday Telegraph has much more exciting news? “Health warning: exercise makes you fat” is the kind of full-width headline you want to see across a broadsheet page: it’s affirmative, it’s reassuring, and it gives you clear permission to sit on your arse all day. “Re-programming body fat is the key to weight loss, not working out.” Praise be. “Is it possible that all that exercise is doing nothing to make us slimmer?” Please let the answer be yes.

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Is this a joke?

July 18th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, evidence based policy, government reports, politics | 64 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 18 July 2009, The Guardian.

We’d all like to help the police to do their job well. They, in turn, would like to have a massive database with DNA profiles from everyone who has been arrested, but not convicted of a crime.

We worry that this is intrusive, but some of us are willing to make concessions, on our principles, and the invasion into our privacy, in the name of preventing crimes. To do this, we’d like to know the evidence on whether this database is helpful, to help us make an informed decision.

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Rape: a helpful non-correction from the Telegraph

July 16th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, telegraph | 34 Comments »

Update: Just got an email from Sophia Shaw, the MSc student in question: “I am happy that they have made an apology , but I am very aware that a number of other mistakes were made that were not acknowledge in their statement. Sophia”

The media is a game-like world of blurry truths, where the vague narrative shape of a story matters more than clarity, accuracy and evidence. Three weeks ago the Daily Telegraph published an unpleasant article headlined “Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists”. It was based on the unpublished and unfinished dissertation of a masters student and got the story entirely wrong. The title of the press release for the same research was “Promiscuous men more likely to rape”, which gives you some small clue as to how weirdly this story was distorted by the newspaper. I wrote about this two weeks ago here, documenting all of their errors in detail. Read the rest of this entry »

Asking for it

July 4th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, rape, telegraph | 52 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 4 July 2009

There’s nothing like science for giving that objective, white-coat flavoured legitimacy to your prejudices, so it must have been a great day for Telegraph readers when they came across the headline “Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists”. Ah, scientists. “Women who drink alcohol, wear short skirts and are outgoing are more likely to be raped, claim scientists at the University of Leicester.” Well there you go. Oddly, though, the title of the press release for the same research was “Promiscuous men more likely to rape”.

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Home taping didn’t kill music

June 5th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, economics, evidence, evidence based policy, politics | 102 Comments »

Ben Goldacreimage
The Guardian
Saturday 6th June 2009

You are killing our creative industries. “Downloading costs billions” said the Sun. “MORE than seven million Brits use illegal downloading sites that cost the economy billions of pounds, Government advisors said today. Researchers found more than a million people using a download site in ONE day and estimated that in a year they would use £120bn worth of material.”

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To the battlefield, my fellow dweebs!

May 23rd, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, media | 24 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday 23 May, 2009

So last week the papers were filled with more quirky, prejudice-affirming, untrue science news. Here is just one. “Man flu: it really does exist, girls” said the Daily Star. “Man flu is not a myth: Female hormones give women stronger immune systems” said the Daily Mail. The Daily Telegraph palmed this fantastical assertion off onto “scientists”, saying: “Men succumb to manflu because women have stronger immune systems, claim scientists”. “Women ‘fight off disease better’” said the BBC.

Now, before we get to the details, here is a question: Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t really get why people are chatting about Tamiflu as if it’s all that

May 1st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, evidence, systematic reviews | 52 Comments »

By-the-by I don’t really understand why the Guardian subs gave this piece, about how Tamiflu isn’t so great, a headline saying “the drugs do work”. I mean they kind of do work a bit, and we don’t know if they do in a pandemic since they’ve not been tested in those circumstances (which probably won’t come to pass) but we hope they will and so they’re recommended.

Ben Goldacre

The Guardian

Saturday 2 May 2009

Look I don’t want to freak you out, since Tamiflu is the one thing which everyone believes will save us from Parmageddon, but I’ve been reading through the published trial data on the drug, and I’m not sure it’s all that great. Read the rest of this entry »

Venal, misleading, pathetic, dangerous, stupid, and busted

March 21st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, media, screening | 69 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday 21 March 2009

Science is not difficult to explain. Today we will see how British journalists go out of their way to cherry pick which evidence they cover, and then explain the risks and benefits in what has been shown to be the single most unhelpful way possible.

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Whinge moan

November 22nd, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, irrationality research | 40 Comments »

Here is my slightly shite backup column. Apologies. I do, however, have something amazing up my sleeve for the next couple of days.

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday November 22 2008
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