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 »

Academic papers are hidden from the public. Here’s some direct action.

September 16th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in academic publishing, bullying | 49 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 3 September 2011

This week George Monbiot won the internet with a long Guardian piece on academic publishers. For those who didn’t know: academics, funded mostly by the public purse, pay for the production and dissemination of academic papers; but for historical reasons, these are published by private organisations who charge around $30 per academic paper, keeping out any reader who doesn’t have access through their institution. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain imaging studies report more positive findings than their numbers can support. This is fishy.

August 26th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in academic publishing, publication bias, regulating research, statistics | 22 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 13 August 2011

While the authorities are distracted by mass disorder, we can do some statistics. You’ll have seen plenty of news stories telling you that one part of the brain is bigger, or smaller, in people with a particular mental health problem, or even a specific job. These are generally based on real, published scientific research. But how reliable are the studies?

One way of critiquing a piece of research is to read the academic paper itself, in detail, looking for flaws. But that might not be enough, if some sources of bias might exist outside the paper, in the wider system of science.

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Existential angst about the bigger picture

May 23rd, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in academic pr, academic publishing, publication bias, regulating research | 20 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 21 May 2011

Here’s no surprise: beliefs which we imagine to be rational are bound up in all kinds of other stuff. Political stances, for example, correlate with various personality features. One major review in 2003 looked at 38 different studies, containing data on 20,000 participants, and found that overall, political conservatism was associated with things like death anxiety, fear of threat and loss, intolerance of uncertainty, a lack of openness to experience, and a need for order, structure, and closure. Read the rest of this entry »

Elsevier get into fanzines

May 8th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in academic publishing, bad science, big pharma, ghostwriters | 36 Comments »

Ben Goldacre

The Guardian

Saturday 8 May 2009

In Australia a fascinating court case has been playing out around some people who had heart attacks after taking the Merck drug Vioxx. This medication turned out to increase the risk of heart attacks in people taking it, although that finding was arguably buried in their research, and Merck have paid out more than £2bn to 44,000 people in America, although they deny any fault. British users of the drug have had their application for legal aid rejected, incidentally: health minister Ivan Lewis promised to help them, but FOI documents obtained by The Guardian last week showed that within hours, Merck launched an expensive lobbying effort that convinced him to back off.

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Listen carefully, I shall say this only once

October 26th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in academic publishing, badscience, big pharma, duplicate publication, regulating research | 16 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday October 25 2008

Welcome to nerds’ corner, and yet another small print criticism of a trivial act of borderline dubiousness which will ultimately lead to distorted evidence, irrational decisions, and bad outcomes in what I like to call “the real world”.

So the ClinPsyc blog ( ) has spotted that the drug company Lilly have published identical data on duloxetine – a new-ish antidepressant drug – twice over, in two entirely separate scientific papers. Read the rest of this entry »