Tell me now how do I feel

January 22nd, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, blue monday, churnalism, survey data | 24 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 22 January 2011

I’m not going to tell the same story once a year, like some kind of journalistic dirty protest, even if it crops up in parliament, every newspaper, and all over Radio 4: there are more interesting things to say than “Blue Monday is bullshit”, but before we get there, let me briefly clarify how Blue Monday is definitely bullshit.

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A new and interesting form of wrong

November 27th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, numerical context, statistics, survey data | 32 Comments »

Ben Goldacre. The Guardian, Saturday 27 November 2010

Wrong isn’t enough: we need interestingly wrong, and this week that came in some research from Stonewall, an organisation for whom I generally have great respect, which was reported in the Guardian. Stonewall have conducted a survey, and their press release says it shows “the average coming out age has fallen by over 20 years”.

People may well be coming out earlier than before – intuitively that seems plausible – but Stonewall’s survey is flawed by design, and contains some interesting statistical traps. Read the rest of this entry »

“Hello madam, would you like your children to be unemployed?”

November 20th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, churnalism, survey data | 27 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 20 November 2010

image Obviously I like nerdy days out: like Kelvedon Hatch secret nuclear bunker, maybe, with its sign on the A128 saying “secret nuclear bunker this way”. Last month eight of us commissioned a boat to get onto a rotting man-made WW2 sea-fort in the middle of the ocean through Project Redsand (we genuinely thought we might die climbing the ladders), and a couple of weeks earlier, myself and Mrs Bad Science travelled to Dungeness, where a toytown narrow gauge railway takes you through amusement parks and back gardens, past Derek Jarman’s house, then into barren wasteland, before depositing you incongruously at the base of a magnificent, enormous, and terrifying nuclear power station.

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PR-reviewed data

August 15th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, churnalism, survey data | 25 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, 15 August 2009

You will have noticed – from the fish oil pill saga, and the Herceptin coverage – that journalists can cheerfully make grand claims for a product which would be impossible in any advert. This week the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the Daily Express newspaper repeatedly tried to circumvent advertising rules by running pages with a glowing, supposedly editorial article about a miracle product, and then a more sanitised, paid-for advert at the bottom.

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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 »