Bad science and research registration

I’ve been reading Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science lately. It’s not only incredibly informative, but also entertaining and inspirational. I usually consider myself a fairly skeptical person, but I had no idea how much of what I’ve heard around me and in the media is pure nonsense. I am now even more encouraged to be more critical about everything I hear.

But the book is not just about the media, but also the less than honest methods of some researchers, especially the ones whose work is intended to make money. One issue that really bothered me is how many of the studies conducted are never published or even registered. If the outcome isn’t what they researchers hoped for then it’s simply discarded. A negative outcome isn’t useless information. Whatever you find out, be it what you expected or not, is valid information and should be easily accessible to all. Especially when it comes to medical trials.

I have been thinking about my thesis for the last few months. I will likely study whether public health in Iceland has changed in the last few decades since globalization reached Iceland. I’m not 100% sure how I’ll go about it, but I will likely look at statistics of particular diseases and see whether they have changed significantly. I took a course last semester where for one project we had to come up with an idea for a study, plan it and then present it to our classmates. Some of them asked me “what if you find out there hasn’t been any change?” I got the feeling that they thought that if the result were no then the study were useless. I don’t think so. It would mean that something’s been done right in the Icelandic health care system and that’s important information.

In light of this I find this blog entry interesting. Larry Husten at Cardiobrief says that mandatory registration of clinical trials hasn’t worked as it should have.

They found that less than half the trials (45.5%) were adequately registered, which they defined as being registered before the end of the trial and with the primary outcome clearly specified. More than a quarter of the trials were not registered at all, while 13.9% were registered after the study was finished. In the trials that were adequately registered, the French investigators found “discrepancies between the outcomes registered and the outcomes published.” In the papers where they were able to assess the discrepancies, the investigators found that “statistically significant results were favored in 82.6%.”

So it’s clear that even initial attempts to address the problem have not been very successful. Hopefully a stricter policy will be implemented in the future.

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All sorts of things

It’s been a while since my last post. After I finished my exams I’ve been feeling kind of brainless and uninspired. I have all sorts of ideas for something to write about, but I can’t seem to make myself sit down and actually get it done.

So, here’s a short post with all sorts of things.

In my last post I linked to an article by Sheril Kirshenbaum, where she urged people to bring an end to the silence that shrouds rape and violence against women. Since then a new movement has been started and a website set up. Take a look at http://www.stopsilence.com and take part.

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I read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi the other day. It is a non fiction telling of a serial killer who terrorized Florence in the 70’s and 80’s and how the Italian police completely botched the investigation. In the end, almost 30 years after the murders took place Preston and Spezi got caught up in the investigation and Spezi was even accused of being the Monster. This book is a great read, exciting and well written. The story itself is absolutely mad and as good as any fictional thriller.

Take a look here at Amazon: The Monster of Florence.

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I have turned my Twitter user image green and my time zone to Tehran in support of the people of Iran. I believe very strongly in freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from tyranny. Such complete disregard for the will of the people digusts me and the violence that is now tearing the place apart is horrifying. I hope from the bottom of my heart that the people will succeed in standing up to their government.

For more information:

If you are on twitter you can follow @StopAhmadi and @ProtesterHelp and do as I did by turning your user pic green and setting your location and timezone to Tehran.

There are also many places where you can read more about what’s going on, such as these:

How to HelpCyberwar GuideWhy We Protest

This information comes mainly from here.

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June 17th was Iceland’s National Day. I spent the day with my best friend Helga. We went for a walk down town, had some cotton candy and enjoyed the weather. Then we had a nice long walk through the oldest cemetery in Reykjavík. I took some pictures. Click on this picture to see them. The cemetery is lovely during the day, but incredibly creepy at night.

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I guess this will have to do for now. I don’t have much else to say. I will try not to wait so long before I write another entry.

Books I’m dying to read

Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.

Human beings are not obviously equipped to be nature’s gladiators. We have no claws, no armor. That we eat meat seems surprising, because we are not made for chewing it uncooked in the wild. Our jaws are weak; our teeth are blunt; our mouths are small. That thing below our noses? It truly is a pie hole.

To attend to these facts, for some people, is to plead for vegetarianism or for a raw-food diet. We should forage and eat the way our long-ago ancestors surely did. For Richard Wrangham, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard and the author of “Catching Fire,” however, these facts and others demonstrate something quite different. They help prove that we are, as he vividly puts it, “the cooking apes, the creatures of the flame.” 

Read more about this book here.

Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science.

Guardian columnist Dr Ben Goldacre takes us on a hilarious, invigorating and informative journey through the bad science we’re fed by the worst of the hacks and the quacks! 

Seth C. Kalichman’s Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy.

Paralleling the discovery of HIV and the rise of the AIDS pandemic, a flock of naysayers has dedicated itself to replacing genuine knowledge with destructive misinformation—and spreading from the fringe to the mainstream media and the think tank. Now from the editor of the journal AIDS and Behavior comes a bold exposé of the scientific and sociopolitical forces involved in this toxic evasion. Denying AIDS traces the origins of AIDS dissidents disclaimers during the earliest days of the epidemic and delves into the psychology and politics of the current denial movement in its various incarnations.

Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism.

Years ago, Adam Hochschild came across a reference to the “five to eight million lives” destroyed in the colonial exploitation of the Congo. Startled, he realised that this had been “one of the major killing grounds of modern times. Why were these deaths not mentioned in the standard litany of our century’s horrors?” His corrective history makes sobering and gripping reading. In King Leopold of Belgium, who decided to buy himself an empire to compensate for his country’s smallness, he portrays a villain of Shakespearian dimensions.

Are there any books you’ve read lately that you think I should read too?