We should teach epidemiology in schools.

December 14th, 2013 by Ben Goldacre in epidemiology, schools | 5 Comments »

Just catching up with posting things from this year, here’s an editorial in The Lancet from Paul Fine, Andy Haines and me. We argue that epidemiology is the unsung hidden hand, whose techniques underpin a huge chunk of our causal reasoning about the world. It has helped to guide technical specialties like economics, but it’s also vital to everday lay thinking around what’s good for our health, or bad for us: and so it should be taught in schools. As I said yesterday, Bad Science and Bad Pharma are both essentially epidemiology textbooks with bad guys.  Read the rest of this entry »

Cherry picking is bad. At least warn us when you do it.

September 29th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in academic pr, academic publishing, aric sigman, schools, systematic reviews | 9 Comments »

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 »

Kids who spot bullshit, and the adults who get upset about it

June 4th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in brain gym, bullying, childishness, schools | 36 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 28 May 2011

If you can tear yourself away from Ryan Giggs’ penis for just one moment, I have a different censorship story.


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“Exams are getting easier”

August 21st, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, numerical context, politics, schools | 123 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 21 August 2010

Pass rates are at 98%. A quarter of grades are higher than an A. This week every newspaper in the country was filled with people asserting that exams are definitely getting easier, and then other people asserting that exams are definitely not getting easier. The question for me is always simple: how do you know?

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Boris Johnson and his innovative trial methodology

July 31st, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in evidence, evidence based policy, politics, schools | 95 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 31 July 2010

It’s the near misses that really make you want to shoot your own face off. This week the Centre for Policy Studies has published a pamphlet on education which has been covered by the Mirror, the Mail, the BBC, the Telegraph, the Express, the Guardian, and more. Boris Johnson endorses it.

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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 »

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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