The Nutt Sack Affair (part 493)

November 7th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in Uncategorized | 74 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 7 November 2009, The Guardian

Obviously it’s pleasing to see, in the storm of commentary over Professor Nutt’s sacking, that everyone outside of politics now recognises the importance of scientific evidence in devising laws. But a strange reasoning twitch has appeared, in the arguments of politicians and right wing commentators. Science can tell us about the molecules, they say, about their effect on the body, and the risks. But policy is a separate domain: a matter for judgement calls on social and ethical issues. Only politicians, they say, can determine the correct way to send out a clear message to the public. It is not a matter for science.

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Political woo

October 30th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in Uncategorized | 93 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 31 October 2009, The Guardian.

Every now and then it’s fun to dip into the world of politics and find out what our lords and masters are saying about science. First we find Brooks Newmark, Conservative MP for Braintree, introducing a bill to reduce the age for cervical cancer screening to 20. The Sun has been running a campaign to lower the screening age, on the back of Jade Goody’s death at 28 from cervical cancer, and gathered 108,000 signatures on a petition. The Metro newspaper have commissioned a poll showing that 82% of 16 to 24-year olds in England agree with lowering the screening age.

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Protecting the powerful is a feature, not a bug

September 21st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, legal chill, libel, politics | 45 Comments »

Here’s a quick piece about libel that I bashed out on request for CiF, covers ground you’ll have read before but it’s always good to keep libel alive in peoples’ minds. 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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Debate with Lord Drayson on rubbish science coverage live streamed @ 7pm

September 16th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, politics | 23 Comments »

The debate with Lord Drayson (who assures me he will attend in full “lord” fancy dress) will be streamed live from 7pm at: Read the rest of this entry »

Ben Goldacre and Science Minister Lord Drayson debate: 16th Sept, Royal Institution, tickets are free on 020 7409 2992

August 27th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, media, politics | 14 Comments »

image A couple of months ago the science minister Lord Drayson was saying that British science journalism is fabulous, the lessons from MMR had been learnt, and so on. I disagreed, and after a bit of chat on twitter I’m very pleased to say that the minister’s office have organised a public discussion on the topic, together with Times Higher and the RI, details below, tickets may go swiftly so I would recommend booking now on 020 7409 2992 or online at

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Is this a joke?

July 18th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, evidence based policy, government reports, politics | 64 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 18 July 2009, The Guardian.

We’d all like to help the police to do their job well. They, in turn, would like to have a massive database with DNA profiles from everyone who has been arrested, but not convicted of a crime.

We worry that this is intrusive, but some of us are willing to make concessions, on our principles, and the invasion into our privacy, in the name of preventing crimes. To do this, we’d like to know the evidence on whether this database is helpful, to help us make an informed decision.

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This is my column. This is my column on drugs. Any questions?

June 12th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre Tags:
in bad science, drurrrgs, evidence based policy, politics | 67 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday 13 June 2009
The Guardian

In areas of moral and political conflict people will always behave badly with evidence, so the war on drugs is a consistent source of entertainment. We have already seen how cannabis being “25 times stronger” was a fantasy, how drugs-related deaths were quietly dropped from the outcome measures for drugs policy, and how a trivial pile of poppies was presented by the government as a serious dent in the Taleban’s heroin revenue Read the rest of this entry »

Home taping didn’t kill music

June 5th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, economics, evidence, evidence based policy, politics | 102 Comments »

Ben Goldacreimage
The Guardian
Saturday 6th June 2009

You are killing our creative industries. “Downloading costs billions” said the Sun. “MORE than seven million Brits use illegal downloading sites that cost the economy billions of pounds, Government advisors said today. Researchers found more than a million people using a download site in ONE day and estimated that in a year they would use £120bn worth of material.”

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Datamining for terrorists would be lovely if it worked

February 28th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence based policy, politics, statistics, surveillance | 79 Comments »

The Guardian
Saturday February 28 2009
Ben Goldacre

This week Sir David Omand, the former Whitehall security and intelligence co-ordinator, described how the state should analyse data about individuals in order to find terrorist suspects: travel information, tax, phone records, emails, and so on. “Finding out other people’s secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules” he said, because we’ll need to screen everyone to find the small number of suspects.

There is one very significant issue that will always make data mining unworkable when used to search for terrorist suspects in a general population, and that is what we might call Read the rest of this entry »