Facebook causes syphilis, says Prof Peter Kelly, Director of Public Health, NHS Tees?

March 26th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, media, secret data | 14 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 27 March 2010

After the Mail’s definitive headline of last year “How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer” (in the same week as a story about a radioactive paedophile, no less) comes a competitor. “Facebook spreads syphilis” was the front page headline in the Sun on Wednesday: “sex diseases soaring due to facebook romps”. The Mail was quick to follow, with “Facebook ‘sex encounters’ linked to rise in syphilis”, while the Telegraph had “Facebook ‘linked to rise in syphilis’: Facebook has been linked to a resurgence in the sexually-transmitted disease syphilis, according to health experts.” It even made the Star.

Read the rest of this entry »

The plausibility effect

July 12th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, electrosensitivity, psychology of woo, roger coghill, secret data | 31 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday July 12, 2008

You will remember, two weeks ago now, we saw the Sunday Express claiming on its front page that an impressive government adviser called Dr Roger Coghill had performed a research study demonstrating that the Bridgend suicide cases all lived closer to a mobile phone mast than average. When I contacted Coghill it turned out he wasn’t really a government adviser, he had previously claimed that Aids was caused by power cables, he said the Express had made a mistake in calling him a doctor, he had lost the data, and he couldn’t even explain what he meant by “average”.

You will be very pleased to hear that Dr Coghill has now found the data. Read the rest of this entry »

Mischief PR and more top secret data.

July 5th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, pr guff, scare stories, secret data, statistics, survey data | 25 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
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 »