"ben goldacre"

Despite public pledges, leading scientific journals still allow statistical misconduct and refuse to correct it

A leading form of statistical malpractice in scientific studies is to retroactively comb through the data for "interesting" patterns; while such patterns may provide useful leads for future investigations, simply cherry-picking data that looks significant out of a study that has otherwise failed to prove out the researcher's initial hypothesis can generate false -- but plausible-seeming -- conclusions. Read the rest

FDAAA Trials Tracker: leaderboard for pharma companies that break FDA clinical trial rules

Ben Goldacre (previously) led a team that created the FDAAA Trials Tracker, "A live informatics tool to monitor compliance with FDA requirements to report clinical trial results." Read the rest

My RSS feeds from a decade ago, a snapshot of gadget blogging when that was a thing

I chanced upon an ancient backup of my RSS feed subscriptions, a cold hard stone of data from my time at Wired in the mid-2000s. The last-modified date on the file is December 2007. I wiped my feeds upon coming to Boing Boing thenabouts: a fresh start and a new perspective.

What I found, over 212 mostly-defunct sites, is a time capsule of web culture from a bygone age—albeit one tailored to the professional purpose of cranking out blog posts about consumer electronics a decade ago. It's not a picture of a wonderful time before all the horrors of Facebook and Twitter set in. This place is not a place of honor. No highly-esteemed deed is commemorated here. But perhaps some of you might like a quick tour, all the same. Read the rest

Audit shows that pharma companies are still cheating by suppressing trials

It's been years since the major pharma companies agreed to participate in the Registry of All Trials, meaning that they'd end the practice of only reporting on trials whose outcomes they were pleased with, leaving about half of all trials unreported-on. Read the rest

Own a legit British sign for "Battle Station"

Battle is a town in East Sussex, England. Battle has a railway station. A pilfered road sign directing travelers to Battle Station is currently £23.95 on eBay. "This deserves a good home" writes Ben Goldacre. Read the rest

Rather than banning "lobbying" by academics, UK government should encourage it

The UK government has passed rules banning academics who receive public funding from "lobbying" ministers and MPs about their research, meaning that the people whom the government pays to acquire expertise in matters of public policy aren't allowed to speak to policy-makers anymore. Read the rest

Negative Publicity: a book of paraphernalia from state kidnappings

Crofton Black is a British counterterrorism investigator who has spent years tracking down the detritus of extraordinary rendition -- a polite euphemism for the government practice of snatching people, flying them to a distant country, and torturing them. Read the rest

Keep your scythe, the real green future is high-tech, democratic, and radical

"Radical ecology" has come to mean a kind of left-wing back-to-the-landism that throws off consumer culture and mass production for a pastoral low-tech lifestyle. But as the brilliant science journalist and Marxist Leigh Phillips writes in Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence Of Growth, Progress, Industry And Stuff, if the left has a future, it has to reclaim its Promethean commitment to elevating every human being to a condition of luxurious, material abundance and leisure through technological progress.

Transgenic mouse company pays academics who cite them in papers

Cyagen also makes stem cells and other bio-research materials: they'll pay academics $100 in vouchers per citation, multiplied by the impact factor of the journal in which the paper is published. Read the rest

When scientists hoard data, no one can tell what works

Peer review and replication are critical to the scientific method, but in medical trials, a combination of pharma company intransigence and scientists' fear of being pilloried for human error means that the raw data that we base life-or-death decisions upon is routinely withheld, meaning that the errors lurk undetected in the data for years -- and sometimes forever. Read the rest

I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That

Over the past decade, pharma-fighting Dr Ben Goldacre has written more than 500,000 words of fearlessly combative science journalism.

Nutritionists' professional events catered by McD's, sponsored by High Fructose Corn Syrup

An alarming report from the California Dietetic Association describes a kind of corporatist apocalyptic nightmare where junk-food companies pony up fat sponsorships in order to pervert the agenda and distort the science. Nutritionists, like other medical professionals, have to attend educational meetings in order to keep up their credentials.

Their professional bodies have seemingly been totally co-opted through corporate sponsorships, and nutritionists who try to document this are thwarted by "no photography" policies. But even without pictures, it's obvious that a panel on corn sweeteners that's paid for by the corn growers and only sports employees of high-fructose corn syrup is not going to produce a rounded picture of the science of obesity and HFCS.

The situation for nutritionists is a microcosm for the whole health industry. As Ben Goldacre details in his essential book Bad Pharma, doctors' continuing education is almost entirely funded by pharmaceutical companies that present multi-hour adverts for their products -- including dodgy studies that they funded -- in place of genuine, impartial scientific training. Read the rest

Full NHS hospital records uploaded to Google servers, "infinitely worse" story to come

PA Consulting, a management consulting firm, obtained the entire English and Welsh hospital episode statistics database and uploaded it to Google's Bigquery service. The stats filled 27 DVDs and took "a couple of weeks" to transfer to Google's service, which is hosted in non-EU data centres. This is spectacularly illegal. The NHS dataset includes each patient's NHS number, post code, address, date of birth and gender, as well as all their inpatient, outpatient and emergency hospital records. Google's Bigquery service allows for full data-set sharing with one click.

The news of the breach comes after the collapse of a scheme under which the NHS would sell patient records to pharma companies, insurers and others (there was no easy way to opt out of the scheme, until members of the public created the independent Fax Your GP service).

According to researcher and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre, this story is just the beginning: there's an "infinitely worse" story that is coming shortly. Read the rest

Bike helmets and safety: a case study in difficult epidemiology

Ben Goldacre and David Spiegelhalter have published a paper in the British Medical Journal called " Bicycle helmets and the law", exploring the complex epidemiological conundrum presented by research on safety and bike helmets. As Goldacre pointed out, this is a perfect teaching case about the difficulty of evaluating risk and its relationship to law and the behavior. The paper is short and very clearly written, and makes a great companion to Goldacre's excellent books, Bad Science and Bad Pharma. Read the rest

The Russians: "Human DNA can be changed and rearranged with spoken words and phrases"

Telepathy, remote healing and Einstein-Rosen bridges:

Our DNA stores data like a computer’s memory system. Not only that, but our genetic code uses grammar rules and syntax in a way that closely mirrors human language! They also found that even the structuring of DNA-alkaline pairs follows a regular grammar and has set rules. It appears that all human languages are simply verbalizations of our DNA. Most astounding of all, the team discovered that living human DNA can be changed and rearranged with spoken words and phrases. The key to changing DNA with words and phrases is in using the right frequency. Through the application of modulated radio and light frequencies, the Russians were able to influence cellular metabolism and even remedy genetic defects. The team achieved incredible results using vibration and language.

This is much better SF than Deepak Chopra ever wrote. [via Ben Goldacre] Read the rest

Blue Monday is bullshit

You'll see it everywhere today, in stories seeded by tourism companies and charities: it is "Blue Monday", the most depressed day of the year. It's bullshit, Ben Goldacre reminds us, originally devised by Sky Travel with the help of Dr. Cliff Arnall, then of Cardiff University. Arnall is the sort of academic who cracks jokes about getting checks from companies mentioned in conjunction with his name.

I reviewed the evidence from over 30 studies over 130 years on the subject last year, in an act of performance anality. Some find more suicide in spring and early summer, some in spring and autumn, some in summer only, some find no pattern at all. Many have sampled representative individuals from a population and followed their mood over a year, finding: more misery in summer, more in spring, more in winter, or no peak at all. Antidepressant prescriptions have been tracked a few times (they peak in spring, or in February, May and October). GP consultations for depression peak in May-June, and in November-January (you get the same pattern with osteoarthritis consultations, oddly). Admissions for depression peak in autumn, or spring and summer, while 8 studies found no seasonal variation at all. So Blue Monday does not put a catchy name on a simple human truth: in fact, it only really shows us how easy it is to take an idea that people think they already know, and then sell it back to them. Even if it’s entirely false.

Tell me, how do I feel? Read the rest

Sped-up video makes real airplanes look like bad 1950s special effects

Real airplanes look like toys dangling from strings in this video from Heathrow.

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