Evidence Matters

because science reporting and decision-making should be evidence-based

Evidence Matters on UK political parties manifestos for the EU elections

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Evidence Matters is pleased to see that science bloggers Frank Swain and Martin Robbins, of Sciencepunk and Layscience respectively, have an article on The Guardian website analysing the science policies of the various UK political parties standing in the forthcoming EU elections on 6th June.
Frank and Martin have blogged and analysed the parties responses to questions in the following areas on their own sites:
ENVIRONMENT
ENERGY
OPEN ACCESS
STEM CELL RESEARCH
CHEMICALS
SPACE
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
GM FOOD AND RESEARCH
CLIMATE CHANGE
Evidence Matters would also like to draw your attention to the blogger ‘gimpy’, whose correspondence with the Green Party about some of their policies leads him to believe that it has the potential to destroy biological research and to ‘holfordwatch’ who have grave concerns with the Green Party’s policy on alternative medicine.
Evidence Matters is in full agreement with Frank and Martin in concluding:
[…] we were pleasantly surprised by the main parties, who seem to have reached a consensus on a variety of scientific issues. One notable exception to this was in the area of alternative medicine, where there appears to be a crippling lack of action on government and opposition benches.
The minor parties are a much more mixed bunch, and one wonders if voters seeking to register protest votes with the likes of UKIP and the Greens realise that they are supporting parties that apparently contain creationists and climate denialists (UKIP), and supporters of quackery (The Greens).
Martin Robbins can be contacted at
robbins.martin@googlemail.com
Evidence Matters can be contacted at
info@evidencematters.org

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Evidence Matters is an independent, loose association of bloggers with a special interest in accurate science coverage and the use of appropriate evidence in decision-making. At present it is a means of contacting organisations and letting people know about stories that aren’t being covered or gross distortions of particular issues.

Written by oatmealts

June 1, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

C4 and the Lamentable Kitchen Pharmacy

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Many of us have an anecdote or family story we’ve never checked into because we don’t want to learn that it isn’t true. Sometimes, the motives are that we want to avoid humiliation but frequently it’s because it’s a good story as it stands but would lose something in the re-telling if it were accurate. How many people acknowledge that Simon Singh’s version of 9 Million Bicycles is more rigorous and logical but still prefer Katie Melua’s version if only because it scans better?

C4 must like to believe that chlorophyll is just like haemoglobin. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by oatmealts

January 9, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Paul Flynn MP Early Day Motion on Dore (and bloggers)

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Paul Flynn MP has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliarment, on the promotion of Dore. The Motion states:

That this House is appalled at the gullible uncritical promotion by the media of Dore, a claimed miracle cure for dyslexia, in the absence of scientific proof of its value; notes that there were five resignations from the editorial board of the journal Dyslexia in protest at false claims published in that journal on the efficacy of Dore; welcomes Ofcom’s finding that Dore’s television advertisement was in breach of its rules on evidence,; calls on the Jeremy Vine Show, Channel Five News, Radio Five Live, BBC London, ITV Central, ITV Yorkshire, the Daily Mail, the Daily Record, Scotland on Sunday, Tonight with Trevor McDonald and You and Yours to correct the false impressions they broadcast on an unproven treatment; and congratulates the bloggers and journalist Ben Goldacre for exposing this bad science and other exploitative snake oil salespeople.

That is an excellent Early Day Motion, and we hope that Parliament and the mainstream media take note.

Flynn asks “Will the media react and repent their gullibility”, and encourages readers of his (very interesting) blog to persuade their MPs to sign EDM 1770 (at the time of writing, the motion has five signatures). We would encourage our readers to do the same.

Written by oatmealts

June 17, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Translucent Science in the Guardian and ICWales

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We’ve been seeing some nice media coverage of Translucent Science over the past few days. Ben Goldacre’s Guardian article on media and blog coverage of Dore references Translucent Science bloggers, and argues that:

I make no sweeping claims about blogs and mainstream media – both have their roles – but in this case it seems the bloggers win on timeliness, accuracy, relevance, effort, ethics, and stupid names.

Secondly, as Podblack notes, the South Wales Echo has reported on our criticisms of Dore:

sceptics such as Translucent Science – a loose association of science bloggers on the internet – have criticised the programme.

Watch this space over the next couple of weeks, for some more interesting stories.

Written by oatmealts

June 2, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Media coverage of Dore closures: UPDATED

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After our 27/5/08 press release about Dore closures, there has been a significant amount of media coverage of the story. We will list what we have seen below, and add to this list as new articles come out or as we are reminded of ones we missed.

30/5/08
ABC have an online piece on Parkes Shire Council, and how much it may have lost with Dore going into administration.

29/5/08
The Sun, Times, Guardian and Independent all covered this story, as did ABC’s Life Matters (a popular national Australian radio show). You can find discussion of this coverage on the HolfordWatch and Podblack blogs.

BBCi also has a piece on the closures.

28/5/08
The Guardian had an article covering part of the story.

Written by oatmealts

May 29, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Has Dore’s Miracle Cure lost its lustre?

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The Dore programme sold itself as an expensive ‘miracle cure’ to the parents of children with learning disabilities but now businesses are collapsing, leaving broken dreams, empty wallets and unanswered questions. Dore Australia has now gone into administration, while Dore UK has closed all of its treatment centres [1]. The staff and clients of Dore Australia have been told they will probably not receive wages or refunds [2]. The finances of Dore UK staff and clients look equally bleak. At the time of writing Dore is still operating in six other countries, and may still be taking money from new clients [3].

The collapse of Dore has caused an astonishing amount of anger amongst parents and staff: one former Dore Australia staff member told Translucent Science that “We are just as devastated as the clients. The way this was done in Australia has made the staff feel and look like crooks. We were enrolling people on the program and taking their money the whole week leading up to the administration, including earlier that same day.” An upset parent told us that, having seen their oldest daughter successfully complete the Dore programme, they were “totally astonished that the Dore centre has closed.” [4]

The collapse of Dore will come as a surprise to some. But a network of bloggers, with the very disabilities Dore claimed to treat, had realised earlier this year that Dore was only being kept afloat by loans from Wynford Dore [5]. It was obvious that without further injections of cash, treatments could only be funded using the money from new clients who were signing-up. Outraged parents and staff members contacted these bloggers as Dore UK and Australia centres were closed.

When Dore published their much publicised research study their ‘miracle cure’ promptly caused furious disagreements and five resignations amongst the journals board and an unprecedented nine critical commentaries from outraged academics [6]. These arguments, resignations and criticisms went unreported in the mainstream media which continued to publicise Dore.

Previous to the collapse the Dore Programme has enjoyed a lot of positive media coverage in the UK [7], but little coverage questioning the financial status of Dore, the high price of the ‘miracle’, nor the lack of evidence that Dore could treat dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD or others. The situation in Australia was a little different with ABC’s Four Corners: The Behaviour Business offering a critical look at Dore and the research on the ‘miracle cure’ [8].

Many parents are under the erroneous impression that Dore was the only chance for their children and, having spent thousands, see no hope for their children and no hope of refund. Staff have lost their jobs, and will likely remain unpaid. After falsely claiming that Dore will cure children with learning disabilities, Dore have released no rescue plan. Dore’s constant reminders that parents should “keep the faith” are reminders of the miracle that didn’t happen [9].

Who we are:
Translucent Science is a loose association of bloggers with a special interest in accurate science coverage. We are motivated by our interest in science and research, and the association does not accept any industry funding. The bloggers who have been chronicling the breaking news about Dore have personal experience of learning difficulties, which prompted their interest.

References:
1 – http://brainduck.wordpress.com/2008/05/24/doreshut/
2 – http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/23/2254277.htm
3 – http://www.dore.com.au/International.aspx
4 – This parent was “totally astonished that the Dore centre has closed. As my second child has now been ‘labelled’ as having specific learning difficulties, ie dyslexia I felt it was only fair to give her the advantage of the Dore programme. We had no inclination that the company was in financial difficulty when we were told by text that her next appointment was cancelled. £2300 is far more money than we would like to lose but it’s the fact that my youngest will miss out on this treatment.”
5 – http://gimpyblog.wordpress.com/2008/01/28/are-dore-in-deep-finanical-doo-doo/
6 – These criticisms are summarised at http://www.york.ac.uk/res/crl/DDATRebuttal.pdf A number of these papers are available at http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2007/s1997868.htm
7 – Much of this coverage featured paid representative and international rugby star Kenny Logan. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/24/1 and http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_43979.htm for details regarding these payments.
8 – The programme, transcripts and related information is available at http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2007/s1994872.htm
9 – See the discussion at http://dore.co.uk/doretalk/forums/p/740/3771.aspx#3771

Blogs:
A number of blogs have offered and continue to offer detailed coverage of Dore. In particular, see:
Bad Science http://www.badscience.net/?cat=72
Brainduck http://brainduck.wordpress.com/category/dore
Gimpy http://gimpyblog.wordpress.com/?s=dore
HolfordWatch http://holfordwatch.info/?s=dore
Podblack http://podblack.wordpress.com/?s=dore&searchsubmit=Find+%C2%BB

Written by oatmealts

May 27, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Has Dore’s Miracle Cure lost its lustre?

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ARCHIVE PURPOSES ONLY. Updated version here.

The Dore programme offers miracles to transform the lives of children with ASD, dyslexia and learning difficulties but now the business is collapsing, leaving broken dreams, and unanswered questions.

Charismatic ambassadors like Kenny Logan and Scott Quinnell have told the stories of their own success with the programme. But bewildered staff and parents wonder what will happen to them in the wake of the news that Dore Australia has gone into voluntary administration and that the UK centres have closed abruptly. Dore is offering reassurances that the business is being re-structured and that everyone should “keep the faith” but in Australia, the adminstators have already told parents and unpaid staff that it is unlikely that they will see their money.

Bloggers have been following this story with keen interest*. They are a network of students, scientists and researchers with a shared interest because they also have diagnosed learning difficulties. Earlier this year, they realised that Dore was only being kept afloat by loans from Wynford Dore. It was obvious that without further injections of cash, treatments could only be funded using the money from new clients who were signing-up.

The situation wasn’t sustainable. Bloggers broke the stories of abrupt closures when outraged parents were reporting that their children’s appointments had been cancelled via text or that they had turned up at to find the centre closed.

The Dore Programme has enjoyed a lot of positive media coverage in the UK. Charismatic ambassadors told their stories of personal transformation. But the stories didn’t make clear that clients, many of them cash-strapped parents, needed to make up-front payments for their miracles. Eager parents were never told that there is no strong evidence that Dore could treat dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD or ASD.

In Australia, the press have been more critical of DORE’s unsupported claims. ABC’s Four Corners: The Behaviour Business not only reported on DORE, but took the unusual step of making most of the relevant scientific papers available on their website.

Dore’s much-publicised research study on their ‘miracle cure’ had caused furious disagreements at the journal that published it, leading to five resignations from its editorial board. The study was so flawed that it attracted an unprecedented nine critical commentaries from outraged academics. Yet, because criticisms of the Dore programme never made it into the mainstream press, parents were not aware of the concerns from dyslexia experts.

Following the collapse, parents and staff are venting online. The parents don’t know how to break the news of the troubles to their children for fear of damaging their motivation. Other parents are concerned that they have lost money that they can ill-afford or will be stuck paying loans for services that they never received. It looks like staff will remain unpaid. Still more are angry but are wary of going public after they read Ben Goldacre’s latest article on Dore and realised that Dore were attempting to suppress parents’ criticism with threats of legal retaliation for libel.

Nobody knows what will happen to the children who are in the middle of their programmes; currently, no rescue-plan has been released for them.

The bloggers*, who have been chronicling the breaking news about Dore, have personal experience of dyslexia that has prompted their interest. While the mainstream media continued to carry positive stories about Dore, the bloggers were drawing attention to the imminent financial difficulties that have resulted in this fast-paced series of closures.

Parents of children with ASD, dyslexia and learning difficulties can be desperate for something to help their children. They were encouraged to buy a miracle cure although there was minimal evidence that it would work. The future remains uncertain for them and the constant reminders that they should “keep the faith” are reminders of the miracle that didn’t happen.

Dore needs to answer the questions of these parents. Many children are part-way through a programme and parents don’t know what to do next? Who will perform the specialised assessments that Dore claims are necessary?

Bloggers* continue to keep track of events amidst reports that Dore are still operating in the Caribbean and NZ although it is hard to see how they can continue in the light of financial difficulties elsewhere. Are they still taking money from potential clients? Whatever the merits of the programme or its flaws, parents and children deserve better from Dore.

* The blogs covering this story include: Bad Science, Brainduck, Gimpy, HolfordWatch and Podblack

Written by oatmealts

May 25, 2008 at 2:02 pm