I forgot to post this column up last year. It’s a fun one: the Department for Communities and Local Government have produced a truly farcical piece of evidence, and promoted it very hard, claiming it as good stats. I noticed the column was missing today, because Private Eye have published on the same report in their current issue, finding emails that have gone missing through FOI applications, and other nonsense. That part is all neatly summarised online in the Local Government Chronicle here.
Is this the worst government statistic ever created?
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, 24 June 2011.
Every now and then, the government will push a report that’s so assinine, and so thin, you have to check it’s not a spoof. The Daily Mail was clear in its coverage: “Council incompetence ‘costs every household £452 a year’“; “Up to £10bn a year is wasted by clueless councils.” And the Express agreed. Where will this money come from? “Up to £10bn a year could be saved … if councils better analysed spending from their £50bn procurement budgets.” Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday 30 May 2009
Obviously we distrust the media on science: they rewrite commercial press releases from dodgy organisations as if they were health news, they lionise mavericks with poor evidence, and worse. But journalists will often say: what about those scientists with their press releases? Surely we should do something about them, running about, confusing us with their wild ideas? Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday 7 March 2009
A truly groundbreaking document has been leaked onto the internet. The claim is that this 27-page wonder represents a successful $1.5m pitch to make a slight modification to the Pepsi logo. Welcome to the science of PR. Read the rest of this entry »
Just to be clear, nobody listens to a word I say. More important equation news from the Sun this week, with the exciting headline “How to tell if the boobline is too low… use this equation 0=NP(20C+B)/75”. Alongside a photograph of poor old Britney with her boobs falling out. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday July 5 2008
Anyone would think the cold war was still on, with all this top secret scientific data that journalists constantly seem to be writing about. In last week’s column, as you will remember, we saw the Sunday Express front page claiming that a scientist and government adviser called Dr Coghill had performed scientific research, and found that the Bridgend suicide cases all lived closer to a mobile phone mast than average: this was an issue of great public health significance, but when I contacted the researcher, he wasn’t a doctor, he wasn’t really a government adviser, he couldn’t tell me what he meant by “average”, and he had, in a twist of almost incomprehensible ridiculousness, “lost” the data.
This week we have the same thing, from the insurance company Esure, and their agents Mischief PR. Read the rest of this entry »