DC's Improbable Science

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

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The perils of P values, in Chalkdust magazine

October 6th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Chalkdust is a magazine published by students of maths from UCL Mathematics department. Judging by its first issue, it’s an excellent vehicle for popularisation of maths. I have a piece in the second issue
You can view the whole second issue on line, or download a pdf of the whole issue. Or a pdf of my […]

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Tags: statistics

Stefan Grimmm (1963 – 2014). A memorial to a victim of managerialism

September 24th, 2015 · 5 Comments

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Today, 25 September, is the first anniversary of the needless death of Stefan Grimm. This post is intended as a memorial.
He should be remembered, in the hope that some good can come from his death.

On 1 December 2014, I published the last email from Stefan Grimm, under the title “Publish and perish […]

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Tags: Academia · business · corporate · corruption · Imperial · metrics

The diary: June 2015 – May 2016

August 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

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This is a story of everyday researchers and teachers, struggling to do their job in a world pervaded by management bollocks.
This page is a continuation of the diary that started in June 2007, with the demise of UCL’s Pharmacology department (for the time being). It continued

from June 2008 […]

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There are powerful currents whipping up the metric tide. The HEFCE metrics report

July 9th, 2015 · 3 Comments

This is very quick synopsis of the 500 pages of a report on the use of metrics in the assessment of research. It’s by far the most thorough bit of work I’ve seen on the topic. It was written by a group, chaired by James Wilsdon, to investigate the possible role of metrics […]

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Tags: Academia · HEFCE

Are women still at a disadvantage in science?

June 15th, 2015 · 20 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 · 51 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