DC's Improbable Science

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

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Are women still at a disadvantage in science?

June 15th, 2015 · 12 Comments

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There can be no doubt that the situation for women has improved hugely since I started at UCL, 50 years ago. At that time women were not allowed in the senior common room. It’s improved even more since the 1930s (read about the attitude of the great statistician, Ronald Fisher, to Florence Nightinglale […]

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Tags: diversity · racism · Research Councils · Research Funding · Research managers · Royal fellows · Royal Society · UCL · University College London · women

Prince Charles’ letters confirm that he’s not fit to be king

May 15th, 2015 · 7 Comments

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This post was written for the Spectator Health section, at short notice after the release of the spider letters. The following version is almost the same as appeared there, with a few updates. Some of the later sections are self-plagiarised from earlier posts.

Picture: Getty
The age of enlightenment was a beautiful thing. […]

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Tags: Duchy Originals · Foundation for Integrated Health · Freedom of Information Act · Prince Charles · Prince of Wales · Prince's Foundation

The reproducibility of Science. A meeting report.

April 14th, 2015 · 1 Comment

There is a widespread belief that science is going through a crisis of reproducibility.  A meeting was held to discuss the problem.  It was organised by Academy of Medical Sciences, the Wellcome Trust, MRC and BBSRC, and It was chaired by Dorothy Bishop (of whose blog I’m a huge fan).  It’s […]

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Tags: Human resources · Imperial · reproducibility · University College London · University of Sheffield

The death of Stefan Grimm was “needless”. And Imperial has done nothing to prevent it happening again

April 9th, 2015 · 8 Comments

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The last email of Stefan Grimm, and its follow-up post, has been read over 195,000 times now.
After Grimm’s death, Imperial announced that it would investigate itself The report is now available.

Performance Management: Review of policies, procedures and support available to staff
Following the tragic death of a member of the College’s staff community, […]

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Tags: Academia · Imperial

The University of Warwick brings itself into disrepute -four times. Watch your tone of voice.

April 8th, 2015 · 3 Comments

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The University of Warwick seems determined to wrest the title of worst employer from Imperial College London and Queen Mary College London. In little over a year, Warwick has had four lots of disastrous publicity, all self-inflicted.

First came the affair of Thomas Docherty.
Thomas Docherty
Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Thomas Docherty […]

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Tags: Academia

Herbs get the push: no statutory regulation for western herbalists or Traditional Chinese Medicine

March 30th, 2015 · 9 Comments

It makes a nice change to be able to compliment an official government report.

Ever since the House of Lords report in 2000, the government has been vacillating about what should be done about herbalists. At the moment both western herbalists and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are essentially unregulated. Many (but not all) herbalists have been […]

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Tags: Academia · Chinese medicine · Harry Cayton · Health Professions Council · herbal medicine · herbalism · Michael Driscoll · Middlesex university · Pittilo · Prince Charles · Professional Standards Authority · University of Westminster

What to do about research assessment (the REF)?
A proposal for two-stage university education

February 1st, 2015 · 9 Comments

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DOI: 10.15200/winn.142809.94999
The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the latest in a series of 6-yearly attempts to assess the quality of research in UK universities. It’s used to decide how to allocate about £1.6 billion per year of taxpayers’ money, the so-called "quality-related" (QR) allocation.

It could have been done a lot worse. […]

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Tags: Academia · Education · Universities

Duchess in the soup. Sarah Ferguson in quack diet scam

January 15th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Sarah Ferguson, ex-wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, seems to need a lot of money. Some of her wheezes are listed in today’s Times. That’s behind a paywall, as is the version reproduced in The Australian (Murdoch connection presumably). You can read it (free) here, with more details below the article.

Thomas Ough […]

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Tags: advertisements · Duchess Discoveries · Duchy Originals · Duke of York · fraud · nutribollocks · nutrition · Prince Andrew · Sarah Ferguson · Uncategorized

Some experiences of life at Imperial College London. An external inquiry is needed after the death of Stefan Grimm

December 23rd, 2014 · 13 Comments

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The tragedy of the apparent suicide of Stefan Grimm is now known worldwide. His last email has been read by more than 160,000 people from over 200 countries. This post gathers together some of the reactions to his death. It’s a Christmas card for the people who are responsible.

Alice Gast (president)

James Stirling (provost)

Dermot […]

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Tags: Academia · Imperial

Publish and perish at Imperial College London: the death of Stefan Grimm

December 1st, 2014 · 50 Comments

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This week’s Times Higher Education carried a report of the death, at age 51, of Professor Stefan Grimm: Imperial College London to ‘review procedures’ after death of academic. He was professor of toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial.

 
Now Stefan Grimm is dead. Despite having a good publication record, he failed to […]

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Tags: Academia · bullying · Human resources · Imperial

What a paean from Ben Goldacre can do

November 16th, 2014 · No Comments

After an interchange on Twitter about how blogs get noticed, I commented that the best thing for me was being thrown off the UCL web site by Malcolm Grant, and the subsequent support that I got from Ben Goldacre. I am a big fan of just about everything that Goldacre has done. So are a […]

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Tags: Ann Walker · Ben Goldacre · herbal medicine · herbalism · UCL · University College London · University of Westminster · Westminster university

Two more cases of hype in glamour journals: magnets, cocoa and memory

November 2nd, 2014 · 5 Comments

In the course of thinking about metrics, I keep coming across cases of over-promoted research. An early case was “Why honey isn’t a wonder cough cure: more academic spin“. More recently, I noticed these examples.
“Effect of Vitamin E and Memantine on Functional Decline in Alzheimer Disease".(Spoiler -very little), published in the Journal of the […]

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Tags: Academia · altmetrics · Alzheimer's · Bad journalism · badscience · false discovery rate · Journalism · public engagement · Public relations · Public understanding · publishing · randomisation · randomization · RCT · science · science communication

The Saatchi bill won’t find a cure for cancer, but it will encourage charlatans

October 24th, 2014 · 8 Comments

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Maurice Nathan Saatchi, Baron Saatchi is an advertising man who, with his brother, Charles Saatchi ("‘why tell the truth when a good lie will do?), became very rich by advertising cigarettes and the Conservative party. After his second wife died of cancer he introduced a private members bill in the House of Lords […]

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Tags: business · CAM · cancer · Cancer act · Saatchi Bill

UCL’s senior common room and the Boston marathon: emancipation in the 1960s, and now

August 25th, 2014 · 8 Comments

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I have always been insanely proud to work at UCL. My first job was as an assistant lecturer. The famous pharmacologist, Heinz Otto Schild gave me that job in 1964, and apart from nine years, I have been there ever since. That’s 50 years. I love its godless tradition. I love its multi-faculty […]

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Tags: A.V. Hill · UCL · University College London

Some more pharmacological history: the legend of the Brocken and the statistics of purity in heart

August 14th, 2014 · 5 Comments

This post follows directly from "Some pharmacological history: an exam from 1959". In that post, I related how two of my teachers in Leeds, James Dare and George Mogey, had encouraged my interest in statistcs. George Mogey had worked previously at the famous Wellcome Research Labs in Beckenham, Kent. He had been there at the […]

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Tags: Bioassay · George Mogey · J.W. Trevan · Wellcome Labs Beckenham