Is this the worst government statistic ever created?

April 23rd, 2012 by Ben Goldacre in economics, evidence based policy, government reports, politics, pr guff, statistics | 12 Comments »

I forgot to post this column up last year. It’s a fun one: the Department for Communities and Local Government have produced a truly farcical piece of evidence, and promoted it very hard, claiming it as good stats. I noticed the column was missing today, because Private Eye have published on the same report in their current issue, finding emails that have gone missing through FOI applications, and other nonsense. That part is all neatly summarised online in the Local Government Chronicle here.

Is this the worst government statistic ever created?

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, 24 June 2011.

Every now and then, the government will push a report that’s so assinine, and so thin, you have to check it’s not a spoof. The Daily Mail was clear in its coverage: “Council incompetence ‘costs every household £452 a year’“; “Up to £10bn a year is wasted by clueless councils.” And the Express agreed. Where will this money come from? “Up to £10bn a year could be saved … if councils better analysed spending from their £50bn procurement budgets.” Read the rest of this entry »

Is there statistical evidence of fraud in the Russian election data?

March 5th, 2012 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, data, structured data | 24 Comments »

James Ball sent me the data for the Russian election vote counts this morning and asked me to test whether it deviates from Benford’s law, a test that can give a hint at whether numbers are the product of fraud. Posted below is my analysis, and also a check for last digit preference, which is another method for spotting sneakiness. Read the rest of this entry »

The golden arse beam method.

February 12th, 2012 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, irrationality research, placebo | 13 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 9 July 2011

Since I was a teenager, whenever I have a pivotal life event coming – an exam, or an interview – I perform a ritual. I sit cross-legged on the floor, and I imagine an enormous golden beam of energy coming out of my arse. Read the rest of this entry »

These Guardian / Independent stories are dodgy. Traps in data journalism.

December 30th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in guardian, numerical context, statistics | 8 Comments »

Here’s an interesting problem with data analysis in general, and so, by extension, data journalism: you have to be careful about assuming that the numbers you’ve got access to… really do reflect the underlying phenomena you’re trying to investigate.

Today’s Guardian has a story, “Antidepressant use in England soars“. It’s much more overstated in the Independent. They identify that the number of individual prescriptions written for antidepressant drugs has risen, and then assumes this means that more people are depressed. But while that’s a tempting assumption, it’s not a safe one. Read the rest of this entry »

“Bad Science” is £2.49 on Kindle for the next week

November 4th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 12 Comments »

Briefly: I thought this was a pricing error, but it turns out it’s deliberate, so… My book is £2.49 on Kindle for the next week or so. Read the rest of this entry »

Why won’t Professor Susan Greenfield publish this theory in a scientific journal?

November 3rd, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in academic pr, dodgy academic press releases, susan greenfield | 17 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 22 October 2011

This week Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of pharmacology at Oxford, apparently announced that computer games are causing dementia in children. This would be very concerning scientific information: but it comes to us from the opening of a new wing at an expensive boarding school, not an academic conference. Then a spokesperson told a gaming site that’s not really what she meant. But they couldn’t say what she does mean. Read the rest of this entry »

Great piece in .net magazine about nerdydaytrips.com

October 28th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in onanism | 4 Comments »

Hi, just to say, there’s a great piece in this month’s .net magazine about www.nerdydaytrips.com, the crowd-sourced dorky-days-out Why-Don’t-You project I built with Applecado, Aaron Rudd, and Jo Brodie. Read the rest of this entry »

New edition of “Testing Treatments”, best pop science book on Evidence Based Medicine ever.

October 18th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in great popularisers of science, methods | 6 Comments »

People often ask if there’s one good book that is accessible to all, about how evidence based medicine works. The answer is undoubtedly “Testing Treatments“. I name-check it to death in Bad Science, I learnt a huge amount from it, and it’s just come out in a new edition. You can (generously!) download the full text as a PDF for free here, and there are translations in various languages for free on that page too. I recommend getting a paper copy (they’re lovely and it’s very readable) here, there’s a proper Kindle edition here, and the publisher page is here. Meanwhile a website version with extra resources is coming shortly.

I genuinely, truly, cannot recommend this awesome book highly enough for its clarity, depth, and humanity.  My foreword for the new edition is pasted below. Read the rest of this entry »

What if academics were as dumb as quacks with statistics?

October 3rd, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in methods, neurostuff, statistics | 37 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 10th September 2011

We all like to laugh at quacks when they misuse basic statistics. But what if academics, en masse, deploy errors that are equally foolish? This week Sander Nieuwenhuis and colleagues publish a mighty torpedo in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

They’ve identified one direct, stark statistical error that is so widespread it appears in about half of all the published papers surveyed from the academic neuroscience research literature. Read the rest of this entry »

You might also enjoy my second blog…

September 29th, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | No Comments »

As well as being here I’m also there: here’s a quick round-up of recent posts from my other blog where I post scatty, brief scribbles in between bouts of real work, they’re in the sidebar on the right too. Read the rest of this entry »