Opening the evidence up to policymakers

A group of UK academics and researchers is planning to launch a UK Evidence Information Service (EIS) for politicians. It is now asking members of the public to volunteer to interview local elected politicians, providing feedback that will help shape the service. Continue reading

Smallpox in London: Stockwell, state planning and hospital ships

In 1863, a smallpox outbreak hit London. The measures taken in the borough of Lambeth to control the spread of disease were remarkably successful, according to the annual report of its Medical Officer of Health, published as part of the Wellcome library’s vast digitisation project, London’s Pulse. In his report, Dr George Puckle describes how:  Continue reading

Bridging the gap between evidence and policy

Nature recently published an excellent list of 20 things policymakers should understand about interpreting scientific claims, by William J Sutherland, David Spiegelhalter and Mark A Burgman, academics from Cambridge and Melbourne. Included are reminders that “scientists are human” and that “correlation does not imply causation”, as well as practical examples explaining why “regression to the mean can mislead” or how to “beware the base rate fallacy”. Continue reading

Medical journals and the tobacco industry

The BMJ has announced that it will no longer consider consider research funded by the tobacco industry, in whole or part, for publication. It is time, say the editors of the BMJ, Heart,
Thorax, and BMJ Open, “to cease supporting the now discredited notion that tobacco industry funded research is just like any other research”. They cite the increasing evidence that peer review and declaration of funding is not enough: funding can Continue reading

Surgery in early 20C: less risk – and more

Scientific advances such as anaesthesia meant that surgery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries started to be seen as safe – but at the same time more risky. Surgeons, buoyed by early successes, started undertaking more risky procedures, in greater volumes,
accompanied by a media-fuelled moral panic about experimentation and vivisection. These apparent paradoxes are explored in a recent article that looks at attitudes to risk and responsibility by surgeons, their patients and the public, as well as the risks faced by the early women surgeons. Continue reading

Women of science: worthy of note

Post banknotegate, the row about the absence of women on Bank of England notes, about which Anna Jenkin has a different take, highlighting the limits of a focus on individuals in
history
, I came across some interesting blog posts about women in science. In one, Vanessa Heggie chronicles the extraordinary career of Dr Ida H Hyde, inventor of both the
micro-electrode and an octopus restraint system. Of course. Continue reading

Naming and shaming sites that make dubious health claims

Legal, decent, honest and truthful. It doesn’t sound too much to ask, but many traders
continue to use misleading advertising claims on their websites – and the list is dominated by health products.

If the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decides that an online ad does not comply with the UK Advertising Code, it will make repeated requests for the dubious claim to be
amended: if traders still fail to comply, then details of the claim and the ASA decision are published. Looking down the list, it is dominated by health products, including something I misread as psychic dentistry. Continue reading