"Science reporting: Is it good for you?" - event review - Ben Goldacre and Lord Drayson debate (#SciDebate, @BenGoldacre)
I attended an event last night at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (the place where they do the wonderful Christmas lectures from) which was a debate between the science minister Lord Drayson and the "Bad Science" writer and blogger Dr Ben Goldacre.
- A chap from the Daily Mail was there and Simon Mayo insisted that he ask a question. He explained that when they looked there were 46 studies saying that coffee was bad for you and 45 studies saying it was good for you.He asked what they are supposed to do. Goldacre suggested that individual studies like those are of limited benefit and it would be better to concentrate on aggregated studies (meta-analyses like the Cochrane Collaboration do).
- A question came in via Twitter asking Lord Drayson how he could defend the coverage of the LHC last year when there were loads of stories making it sound like the Earth could be destroyed by a black hole. His response was that may have been the hook but it got people interested in particle physics and hence it was good. Goldacre pointed out that lots of people had been scared by that and audience members pointed out that lots of children had been terrified and one person even committed suicide.
- The final question from the floor was a cracker in my view. the questioner asked Lord Drayson if his child's school had gone from 1/5 of things that they told his child were absoute rubbish to 1/10 absolute rubbish, would he be praising them as much as he is the science media. drayson's response was they he would be delighted that the 9/10 was so good.
- At one point Goldacre used the word "embiggens" showing his Simpsons fan/geek credentials!