Category Archives: Research

A sense of deja vu: the advertising of e-cigarettes

Glamourising smoking, targeting advertising at young people, using imagery of healthy, sporty smokers – all old, outlawed techniques for the tobacco industry. But the advent of e-cigarettes has lit the embers of this debate again. The BMA has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about a television advertisement for e-cigarettes, saying it breaches two of the new rules that were announced by the Committees of Advertising Practice in October. They came into effect on  Monday 10 November, the same day the ad was aired for the first time.

The manufacturer, VIP Electronic Cigarette, says this is the first time the act of using an electronic cigarette – or vaping – has been shown on television. It appeared in an ad break in Grantchester, ITV1’s smoke-wreathed drama about a 1950s country vicar who falls over corpses in between lighting cigarettes. Continue reading

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

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

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

Dripping with melancholy: depression and historical heroes

In 2009, Alistair Campbell and Nigel Jones wrote A World Without: The Fantastic Five, asking what the world would be like if ‘five giants of history’ had been prevented by prejudice from making their enormous contributions. Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Marie Curie: all brilliant, all shapers of the modern world, all lived with significant mental health problems. Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, said “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked”.

But could their illnesses actually have helped them in their work? Continue reading

Health internet searches: early warning of drug safety issues?

One common use of the internet is to search for health information. Could an analysis of search terms, and a little detective work, help provide early clues about drug side effects, before more traditional methods such as official reporting systems have kicked in? Continue reading

AllTrials not SomeTrials: no more invisible evidence

To assess the evidence, you need to know it is there.

Properly conducted clinical trials provide the best evidence for whether drugs work and are safe. But about half have never been published, and trials with positive results – where the drug concerned is shown to be safe and effective – are more likely to be published than negative ones. Patients can be harmed – for example if a treatment found to be harmful in an invisible trial is then given to patients in a new one – or medicines used ineffectively or wastefully, as a result. Researchers can’t plan research properly because they don’t know what has gone before. The problems with this situation have been well documented for years, but things may now be going to change.

Continue reading