Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Science on the Street Corner

A quick round up of recent sightings of science walking the street picking up dates.

Sharon Begley at Newsweek tells us how math whiz, Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, slices through scientific studies showing us how Everything We Hear About Medicine Is Wrong.
But at NIH Ioannidis had an epiphany. “Positive” drug trials, which find that a treatment is effective, and “negative” trials, in which a drug fails, take the same amount of time to conduct. “But negative trials took an extra two to four years to be published,” he noticed. “Negative results sit in a file drawer, or the trial keeps going in hopes the results turn positive.” With billions of dollars on the line, companies are loath to declare a new drug ineffective. As a result of the lag in publishing negative studies, patients receive a treatment that is actually ineffective. That made Ioannidis wonder, how many biomedical studies are wrong?
Surprised? Why?
biostatistician Steven Goodman of Johns Hopkins ... worries that the most-research-is-wrong claim “could promote an unhealthy skepticism about medical research, which is being used to fuel anti-science fervor.”
What is an unhealthy skepticism?  I agree that the anti-vaccine hysteria is a problem, but shouldn't we then be encouraging skepticism about skepticism instead of trying to demand unquestioned compliance with science doctrine?

Jay P Greene explains, with respect to education, exactly what I've thought about so-called scientific reasoning and how it is misapplied and over-trusted in many aspects of life.
Science has its limits. Science cannot adjudicate among the competing values that might attract us to one educational approach over another. Science usually tells us about outcomes for the typical or average student and cannot easily tell us about what is most effective for individual students with diverse needs. Science is slow and uncertain, while policy and practice decisions have to be made right now whether a consensus of scientific evidence exists or not. We should rely on science when we can but we also need to be humble about what science can and can’t address.
He goes on to explain how scientific studies are completely misinterpreted, perhaps intentionally, by ideologues who push their agenda anyways.  With study sponsors like these, who needs scientists?
We already have a taste of this from the preliminary report that Gates issued last month. Following its release Vicki Phillips, the head of education at the Gates Foundation, told the New York Times: “Teaching to the test makes your students do worse on the tests.” Science had produced its answer — teachers should stop teaching to the test, stop drill and kill, and stop test prep (which the Gates officials and reporters used as interchangeable terms).
Unfortunately, Vicki Phillips mis-read her own Foundation’s report. On p. 34 the correlation between test prep and value-added is positive, not negative. If the study shows any relationship between test prep and student progress, it is that test prep contributes to higher value-added.

CBC News - Canada's government-run science pimp uses the old toilet seat comparison to scare us about mall food court trays.  Did anyone really eat straight off of those things anyways?  They wait until the end of the article, by which time 25% of readers have already ordered a year's supply of anti-bacterial wipes, to offer a reasonable statement.

Despite the presence of some serious pathogens, they are not a major concern for healthy people, Hancock said.
"The number of bacteria that are transferred from a tray, even if it's in the range of hundreds of bacteria, they're not sufficient to cause disease because we have very efficient systems in our body for getting rid of bacteria."
I hope they got their money's worth with our hard-earned tax dollars.  See, not everyone can (or should) send swabs to a university lab because it's bloody expensive.  I think new rooms are always stocked with an emergency swab kit. 
Editor:  "Slow news week, get out the swabs and start testing surfaces."
News Hack:  "What surfaces?"
Editor:  "Any surface people eat near or touch.  Then make sure you compare the results to our stock toilet seat results"

Remember, this is the same organization that warned us that chicken has bacteria on the surface.  Is that why my mom slapped me when I licked raw chicken breasts?

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2011/02/14/bc-food-trays-bacteria.html#ixzz1E5GTmMXj

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