20 Dec The year in bad science
Ben Goldacre, a physician who hosts the Bad Science website and writes the UK Guardian’s Bad Science has produced a witty compendium of the year in dodgy scientific research in the UK and elsewhere. Moneyquote:
A £6m Home Office drugs education study was published with no results, because it was so flawed it couldn’t produce any, we saw MPs being foolish about cervical screening and moon magic, and then when they didn’t like the scientific evidence they got from Professor David Nutt, they sacked him. If politicians want us to take them seriously on the evidence for global warming, they have to show they care about evidence everywhere. It’s only slightly worse in Iraq, where they’ve just spent $32m on 800 sciencey looking dowsing rods to detect bombs….
Elsewhere, alongside the usual barrage of PR reviewed data, we saw that exercise makes you fat, coffee makes you see dead people, and Facebook causes cancer, while housework prevents it, in women. There was industry-standard front page wrongness about vaccines (and the Irish Daily Mail campaigning for the cervical cancer vaccine, while the UK Daily Mail campaigned against it). We saw a man in a coma communicating with a method shown not to help people communicate, hideous distortion of research on rape, the earth’s magnetic field, and much more, although we also found that around half of all academic press releases fail to flag up studies’ flaws.
Hat tip: CC.