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Archive for the ‘Science Journalism’ Category

Here Is the News

Posted by apgaylard on August 12, 2010

These days scientific papers are often accompanied by a press release.  It gives the journal or institution at which the work was done a chance to highlight what they think the main message from the work is.  Some might even see it as applying some PR spin.  The recent paper on a trial of homeopathy on a Leptospirosis outbreak in Cuba (Bracho et al, 2010) has its own accompanying press release.  It’s from the Faculty of Homeopathy, the representative body for the UK’s medically qualified homeopaths, whose stated aim is to promote, “… the academic and scientific development of homeopathy. It ensures the highest standards in the education, training and practice of homeopathy”.

It’s instructive to see what message the UK medical homeopath’s representative body is trying to get into the minds of press and public.

First it’s no surprise that they welcome this apparently successful trial with open arms.  Homeopathy, is the journal of The Faculty of Homeopathy.  The paper appears to confirm the view of The Faculty and provide some justification for its work.  So what message do they want people to take away from this publication?  Is it an accurate reflection of the work?  Let’s have a look and see: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in homeopathy, Science Journalism | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

A book and a video

Posted by apgaylard on March 12, 2009

A Book.  The Open Laboratory 2008 is now in print, complete with a much sharper version of my post on anomolies within Kuhn’s philosophical framework.  I would like to thank the judges, for selecting the post, and Jennifer Rohn along with my good friend C P Leigh for their editorial efforts.

There’s a lot of very good and interesting writing in this slim volume.  It’s well worth the price.



A video.  Alom Shaha has released his “Why is science Important?” video via his website.  It’s really good.  A very thoughtful piece of work that should encourage young people, their parents and teachers to appreciate what a gift an exposure to science is.

If you know any teachers, please let them know about this stimulating resource.  My endorsement has nothing to do with me being (briefly) quoted at the end; or the use of a quotation from a better known science blogger.  Well, perhaps a little.

Posted in Blog, Science Journalism, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Why is science important? – A collection of thoughts from leading scientists, public figures, …and you.

Posted by apgaylard on March 12, 2009

Why is science important? – A collection of thoughts from leading scientists, public figures, …and you.

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Posted in Blog, Science Journalism | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Why is science important? – A collection of thoughts from leading scientists, public figures, …and you.

Ignorant refusal

Posted by apgaylard on February 8, 2009

bigstockphoto_balance_32866491Jeni Barnett‘s recent deplorable on-air foray into the topic of vaccination and MMR has got me thinking about one of the most fundamental concepts in medical ethics: informed consent.

Back in 2005 Edzard Ernst discussed this in the context of the use of so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). 

“The principle of informed consent means that patients need full information about a treatment before receiving it […] Informed consent, however, is more than just agreement, it’s also about information. According to the Department of Health, the data that healthcare professionals need to provide includes “information about the benefits and risks of the proposed treatment and alternative treatments”. [emphasis mine]

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Pseudoscience, Science Journalism | Tagged: , | 12 Comments »

Apples, mice, men and miracles

Posted by apgaylard on January 24, 2009

bigstockphoto_apple_with_faucet_pouring_appl_3287143I was slightly bleary-eyed this morning as the BBC Breakfast review of today’s papers showed the Daily Express shouting from its front page, “MIRACLE OF APPLE JUICE – It keeps the brain healthy and can delay Alzheimer’s“.  That would be amazing if true.  The problem is: nobody knows whether this is really true, yet. 

Actually reading the story revealed the inevitable – an extrapolation from an animal model.  The research was done on mice, not men

Looking at the Express‘s coverage, the article doesn’t mention this key detail until its sixth paragraph, 

“The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shows that drinking ­apple juice helped mice to perform better at finding their way through a maze and prevented the decline in performance that was usually seen as they aged. “

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Science Journalism | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

The ASA change tack on ginkgo biloba

Posted by apgaylard on January 3, 2009

bigstockphoto_ginkgo_biloba_and_pills_planne_1859585It seems that the ASA has changed its position on Gingko Biloba.  This is a good thing and speaks well of the organisation. 

 In 2001 the ASA commissioned a, “report by an academic in the field of Pharmacognosy” which concluded that, “most research appeared to suggest that there was sufficient proof Ginkgo Biloba was likely to improve short-term memory and blood-flow in healthy individuals.” 

On the basis of this work the ASA told me that they had, “… accepted that this particular product can, in the short term, help with the maintenance of memory in healthy individuals.”   Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Science Journalism, Supplements | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

The Science Museum and MMR

Posted by apgaylard on December 29, 2008

bigstockphoto_doctor_injecting_child_vaccine_26266041I’ve not commented much on the MMR ‘controversy’ manufactured by Andrew Wakefield, his fellow travellers and the media: I’ve left it to better qualified commentators

To date, my only brief foray was on the topic of making decisions in the absence of certainty; a riposte to Dr John Briffa’s apparent instance on being able to be absolutely certain that the vaccine caused no harm before it could be endorsed. 

One of the sources I cited in the piece was the Science Museum’s generally excellent web pages, “The MMR Files“.  Recently bloggers Dr*T , JDC325 and Martin at “The Lay Scientist” pointed out that some of the science museum’s web content is distinctly dodgy.  In particular, it cites the vociferous, bizarre and downright dangerous anti-vaccination campaign group ‘JABS’.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Pseudoscience, Science Journalism | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Britain’s happiest places mapped – complaining makes it worse!

Posted by apgaylard on November 11, 2008

bigstockphoto_dice_in_black_22983611The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) has just let me know that their adjudication on the “Britain’s happiest places mapped” debacle (previously covered here and here) has been published on the BBC Complaints website.  As ever, these tend to be less detailed than the private responses given to complainants; but they provide a useful public record.  Ultimately they get distilled further into a summary document, so the link won’t be live indefinitely.

So, has the article actually changed as a result of this complaint?  Yes, but some of the changes actually make it worse:  The original tip-off phrase, “… the researchers stress that the variations between different places in Britain are not statistically significant” has gone! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Science Journalism, Statistics | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Happy people, not places

Posted by apgaylard on October 24, 2008

In August, the BBC ran a story claiming that research had determined that some places in Britain were ‘happier’ than others.  You can see the nature of the claims in the TV news report, “Britain’s happiest places mapped“.  There was a big problem with this though: the research found no significant differences between places.  The only differences were accounted for by the socio-economic status of the people

If you read through the on-line version of the story it even pointed this out, eventuallyRead the rest of this entry »

Posted in Science Journalism, Statistics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 11 Comments »

BBC editor concedes ‘happiest place’ story is baseless (updated)

Posted by apgaylard on September 5, 2008

[BPSDBThis is just a short post to highlight an interesting discussion that I’ve got into with the BBC’s Health Editor for their News website.  The BBC is carrying an entirely spurious story about the geographical distribution of ‘happiness’ in the UK; both on TV and on-line.

The tell-tale phrase in the on-line article is that, “the researchers stress that the variations between different places in Britain are not statistically significant.”  This appears part way through the piece and entirely scuppers it as a story.  A few ‘bad science’ types have spotted this – notably gimpy – and let the BBC know what they think. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Science Journalism, Statistics | Tagged: , , | 15 Comments »