These Guardian / Independent stories are dodgy. Traps in data journalism.

December 30th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in guardian, numerical context, statistics | 13 Comments »

Here’s an interesting problem with data analysis in general, and so, by extension, data journalism: you have to be careful about assuming that the numbers you’ve got access to… really do reflect the underlying phenomena you’re trying to investigate.

Today’s Guardian has a story, “Antidepressant use in England soars“. It’s much more overstated in the Independent. They identify that the number of individual prescriptions written for antidepressant drugs has risen, and then assumes this means that more people are depressed. But while that’s a tempting assumption, it’s not a safe one. Read the rest of this entry »

Nullius in verba. In verba? Nullius!

June 30th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in authority, bad science, guardian, media, open methods, show your working | 36 Comments »

Hi there, just back from Glastonbury, here’s my column from last Saturday. The Guardian didn’t take it, they said it was too soon to be critical of a Guardian journalist after the column on fish oil, and the issue was too technical. I’m not prone to melodrama, so I don’t see this as a big thing, but I was a bit baffled by the insistence on experiencing this column as critical, when it’s not written that way, and I don’t think it reads that way either. Read the rest of this entry »

Fish oil in the Observer: the return of a $2bn friend

June 5th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, fish oil, guardian, schools, statistics | 33 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 5 June 2010

Fish oil helps schoolchildren to concentrate” was the headline in the Observer. Regular readers will remember the omega-3 fish oil pill issue, as the entire British news media has been claiming for several years now that there are trials showing it improves school performance and behaviour in mainstream children, despite the fact that no such trial has ever been published. There is something very attractive about the idea that solutions to complex problems in education can be found in a pill. Read the rest of this entry »