The Year in Bad Science

Posted on December 29, 2008  Comments (0)

The Year in Bad Science Ben Goldacre reviews some of the science lowlights of the year.

In a world where rigorous evidence from scientific research languishes unpublicised, the media continued to churn out bogus wacky science stories. Britain’s happiest places were mapped by “scientists”, although the differences were just chance findings; there were innumerable “surveys” from unrepresentative populations; and the right wing press claimed that “Lord Nelson and Captain Cook’s ship logs question climate change theories,” although they did nothing of the sort, as the researchers themselves helpfully explained. We saw how the BBC misrepresented the statistics on parents’ choices about keeping a Down’s Syndrome pregnancy, producing their a publicity avalanche on the back of an incorrect story, and learnt along the way about confounding variables, baseline changes, and more.

In the world of evidence based social policy we saw how the government quietly dropped death as an outcome indicator for their drugs policy, the fascinating inconsistencies in food additive judgment calls, and more. We also watched with delight as right-wing think tank Reform produced a report on the crisis in maths in which they got their maths wrong.

Related: Illusion of Explanatory DepthThe Most Trusted Sources in ScienceSeeing Patterns Where None ExistsBigger Impact: 15 to 18 mpg or 50 to 100 mpg?Poor Reporting and Unfounded Implications

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