DC's Improbable Science

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

DC's Improbable Science header image 4

Entries Tagged as 'Academia'

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

March 30th, 2015 · 8 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 […]

[

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

Jump to follow-up
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. One of […]

[

Tags: Academia · Education · Universities

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

December 23rd, 2014 · 10 Comments

Jump to follow-up
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 […]

[

Tags: Academia · Imperial

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

December 1st, 2014 · 49 Comments

Jump to follow-up

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 […]

[

Tags: Academia · bullying · Human resources · Imperial

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 […]

[

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

Should metrics be used to assess research performance? A submission to HEFCE

June 18th, 2014 · 13 Comments

Jump to follow-up
The Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE) gives money to universities. The allocation that a university gets depends strongly on the periodical assessments of the quality of their research. Enormous amounts if time, energy and money go into preparing submissions for these assessments, and the assessment procedure distorts the behaviour of universities in […]

[

Tags: Academia · metrics · Research Councils · Research Funding

Bad financial management at Kings College London means VC Rick Trainor is firing 120 scientists

June 7th, 2014 · 18 Comments

Jump to follow-up
Stop press. Financial report casts doubt on Trainor’s claims
Science has a big problem. Most jobs are desperately insecure. It’s hard to do long term thorough work when you don’t know whether you’ll be able to pay your mortgage in a year’s time. The appalling career structure for young scientists has been the subject […]

[

Tags: Academia · assessment · HEFCE · management bollocks · managerialism · metrics · Rick Trainor · science · UUK

Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: a review

April 16th, 2014 · 4 Comments

This is a web version of a review of Peter Gotzsche’s book. It appeared in the April 2014 Healthwatch Newsletter. Read the whole newsletter. It has lots of good stuff. Their newsletters are here. Healthwatch has been exposing quackery since 1989. Their very first newsletter is still relevant.

Most new drugs and vaccines […]

[

Tags: Academia · badscience · Big Pharma · blogosphere

La Trobe University (Melbourne) takes money to promote quackery

February 5th, 2014 · No Comments

Jump to follow-up
This post is the original version of a post by Michael Vagg. It was posted at the Conversation but taken down within hours, on legal advice. Sadly, the Conversation has a track record for pusillanimous behaviour of this sort. It took minutes before the cached version reappeared on freezepage.com. I’m reposting it from […]

[

Tags: Academia

Why you should ignore altmetrics and other bibliometric nightmares

January 16th, 2014 · 19 Comments

Jump to follow-up
This discussion seemed to be of sufficient general interest that we submitted is as a feature to eLife, because this journal is one of the best steps into the future of scientific publishing. Sadly the features editor thought that " too much of the article is taken up with detailed criticisms […]

[

Tags: Academia · altmetrics · bibliometrics · open access · peer review · Public relations · publishing

Blogs lead in critical thinking, but newspapers still matter

June 10th, 2013 · 4 Comments

Jump to follow-up

Here is a record of a couple of recent newspaper pieces. Who says the mainstream media don’t matter any longer? Blogs may be in the lead now when it comes to critical analysis. The best blogs have more expertise and more time to read the sources than journalists. But the mainstream media get […]

[

Tags: Academia · anti-oxidant · Anti-science · antioxidant · antiscience · Bait and switch · blogs · communication · conflict of interest · intimidation · management bollocks · nutribollocks · public engagement · Public relations · Public understanding · publishing

Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo: the end of a myth

May 30th, 2013 · 55 Comments

Jump to follow-up
Anesthesia & Analgesia is the official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society. In 2012 its editor, Steven Shafer, proposed a head-to-head contest between those who believe that acupuncture works and those who don’t. I was asked to write the latter. It has now appeared in June 2013 edition of […]

[

Tags: Academia · acupuncture · badscience · Bait and switch · quackademia

The British Pharmacological Society and the MHRA don’t help the cause of honest science. They hinder it.

February 27th, 2013 · 9 Comments

Jump to follow-up
The bulletin of the British Pharmacological Society, Pharmacology Matters, declined to publish the following article. Sadly the Society seems to be more interested in "reputation management" than in truth. Luckily, it is not easy to suppress criticism these days. A version of the article has appeared in Research Fortnight where it will […]

[

Tags: Academia · Adrian Eddleston · Big Pharma · British Pharmacological Society · CAM · MHRA

Academic role model? Moi?

October 26th, 2012 · 8 Comments

Nobody could have been more surprised than I when I found myself nominated as an academic role model at UCL. I had to answer a few questions. It is not obvious to me what the object of the stunt is, but the person who asked me to do it seemed to find the answers […]

[

Tags: Academia · HR bollocks · Human resources · management bollocks · managerialism

Regulation of alternative medicine: why it doesn’t work, and never can

October 15th, 2012 · 14 Comments

Jump to follow-up
The Scottish Universities Medical Journal asked me to write about the regulation of alternative medicine. It’s an interesting topic and not easy to follow because of the veritable maze of more than twenty overlapping regulators and quangos which fail utterly to protect the public against health fraud. In fact they mostly promote […]

[

Tags: Academia · acupuncture · Anna van der Gaag · antiscience · ASA · badscience · Bait and switch · Care Quality Commission · CHRE · CNHC · College of Medicine · craniosacral · crystal healing · Dangerous advice · David Peters · Department of Health · evidence · Fair trading · Foundation for Integrated Health · General Chiropractic Council · Graeme Catto · Health Professions Council · HEFCE · herbal medicine · herbalism · homeopathy · hot stone · HPC · HR bollocks · managerialism · Marc Clement · Margaret Coats · Michael Dixon · NOS · OfQual · Peter Dixon · Politicians · politics · PR · Prince Charles · Prince of Wales · Prince's Foundation · RLHH · Royal London Homeopathic · Steiner · TCM · Traditional Chinese medicine · UCLH · Universities · University of Westminster · vice-chancellors · Westminster university