DC's Improbable Science

Truth, falsehood and evidence: investigations of dubious and dishonest science

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October 3rd, 2007 · 7 Comments

The British Medical Journal ran an article on “doctor bloggers” last week.



BMJ header

Photo ©Mark Thomas


The BMJ put the article behind a paywall, but you can download a reprint here.

Oops, no you can’t. The BMJ have dictated that their piece on bloggers should not be available to bloggers. If you want a copy, email me. The question of availability is more interesting than the article itself anyway. It is by a journalist, Rebecca Coombes. Contrary to what you might think from reading it, I have never met her. She asked for opinions by email, so I spent a while writing something out, which she cut and pasted into an article (and I spent another hour with their photographer, Mark Thomas, who took a lot of pictures). But I can’t use either the article or the photos freely. I don’t even get paid. The commercial journals, as always, do pretty well out of exploiting academics.

The picture at the top should have been Ben Goldacre, whose badscience.net is now number two in the world. That picture prompted the child of a friend to ask if I was doing an impression of a velocirapter, I guess that is one better that gimpyblog’s perception of me as being a dead ringer for some computer game thug.

So here is another one (possibly no less scary).

Photo ©Mark Thomas


By way of compensation, here is a picture of Goldacre.



Goldacre



Science writer award 2005



Goldacre said

“. . . blogs are popular because they are more honest than other media. It is hard to get away with misrepresenting stuff when the original source is but a click away.  I see it as a way of making conversation public. What is good about it is you get unmediated expertise.”

“In the press it’s hard to know what is true. But with blogs people can link directly to the original source: this never happens in a newspaper.”



DC said

“I think they [blogs] have really had some success in spreading public understanding of science and even in influencing public affairs (firstly with the merger [of Imperial and UCL] and more recently with withdrawal of NHS funding for homoeopathy).  My own research is on the stochastic properties of single ion channels.  I love it, but it is specialist and of zero interest to the public. So it’s fun to talk about things that do interest the public. It’s also fun to be able to influence politicians and vice chancellors, though that is rather harder.”


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Tags: Anti-science · Bad journalism · Big Pharma · blogosphere · CAM · Politicians · Universities

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jdc325 // Oct 3, 2007 at 16:42

    “I think they [blogs] have really had some success in spreading public understanding of science”

    I can vouch for that. If it wasn’t for sites like this and Bad Science I’d (still) be in the dark. I even found Holford plausible.

  • 2 coracle // Oct 3, 2007 at 19:19

    And on my blog profile, I pretend to be a computer game thug.

    Interesting piece, I’ve been reading Dr Crippen for a little while. Haven’t really followed Dr Rant though.

  • 3 jamesdoeser // Oct 4, 2007 at 12:53

    surely this reflects very poorly on the state of the world in two ways:
    1st, that there are some readers of the BMJ who HAVEN’T heard of the mighty DC and badscience
    2nd, that this youngster didn’t instantly think of Roald Dahl’s BFG when she saw the first pic. http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/image_galleries/cosgrove_hall_30_years_gallery.shtml?5
    harumph!

  • 4 David Colquhoun // Oct 4, 2007 at 14:39

    Hmm this is getting out of hand. But if I have to choose an image, I go for jamesdoesser’s Big Friendly Giant, every time.

    Much more of this and I’ll begin to feel like some of his Bad Archeology.

  • 5 Mojo // Oct 4, 2007 at 23:08

    “That picture prompted the child of a friend to ask if I was doing an impression of a velocirapter…”

    There’s a definite glint in the eye there, as you spot something on-screen, and the fingers are evidently poised to type.

    “Ready…aim…BLOG!!!”

  • 6 Dr Aust // Oct 5, 2007 at 16:19

    I like the image of DC aiming shafts of illumination at the Endarkment via the keyboard.

    BTW, as tuners-in to his occasional radio performances will know, DC is actually mild-mannered and dryly humorous, so razor-toothed velociraptors or kung-fu game superheros are a bit of a stretch. He is also known in scientific circles for always being willing to make time to explain things, no matter how dim the question. I remember him once spending at least an hour explaining some very mundane aspect of least-squares curve-fittting to me back when I was a snot-nosed PhD student in a nearby Dept – I had previously unsuccessfully asked the real statisticians the same question, and after some head-scratching they referred me to DC. He didn’t know me from Adam, and I was very obviously a junior twit, but he still made the time.

  • 7 ulber // Oct 19, 2007 at 13:51

    Oops, you can! (download the article, that is…)
    http://medgadget.com/archives/img/bmj2007.pdf

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