Welcome to Science-ish

by Julia Belluz

Every day, newspapers and websites are filled with grandiose health claims (chocolate heals the heart one day, and causes obesity the next) and statements about health care that aren’t based in evidence. Science-ish has had enough. A joint Maclean’s, Medical Post, and McMaster Health Forum project, Science-ish will check the latest health-related headlines against the evidence—and hold politicians, opinion leaders, and journalists to account. Our modest aim? To improve health reporting, and the quality of information about the health-related issues of the day. Contact Medical Post associate editor Julia Belluz at julia.belluz@medicalpost.rogers.com with any comments or queries.


Welcome to Science-ish

  1. Now THIS will be a very good thing!

  2. Evidence-schmevidence.  Our government knows whats best a priori, and doesn’t need any proof, and most people act as if they make decisions the same way. 

  3. Good Luck. I’m assuming you already know about (and maybe are inspired by) Ben Goldacre in the UK: http://www.badscience.net

    • Yes, he is a hero. Thanks for sending the link, nonetheless.

  4. Aw, Julia, give our scribes a break. Just how is a poor reporter going to make copy if he has to be ACCURATE all the time?

  5. Now, if only the same thing could be done in the field of “climate” to put an end to the pictures of future climate disaster being continually foisted off onto us by those who stand to make the most money from any form of “carbon trading” and pseudo-studies that have the aim not of determining what affects climate but only to prove that it’s all man’s fault, and that it can be remedied only by reducing our CO2 emissions (ignoring the fact that this would destroy our economy). The coming disaster picture is promoted continually despite the fact that there is no scientifically-valid proof that CO2 determines our temperature or climate (beyond an insignificant amount).

  6. Congratulations on a wonderful initiative! I heartily applaud what you’re attempting here, and hope that the project is very successful.

    I do have one suggestion. Ben Goldacre just co-authored a new paper in the journal Public Understanding of Science – see http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/17/bad-science-health-reporting – in which he gathered up and examined a large sample of health claims made by science reporters “using the best currently available evidence on PubMed, the searchable archive of academic papers, and current systematic reviews on the relationships between food and health,” then graded them as either “insufficient,” “possible,” “probable,” or “convincing.”

    His conclusion – that 62% of the claims were based on “insufficient” evidence – is not terribly surprising, and it’s clearly the reason that you’ve started this project. But what needs to be expanded on and publicized is that list itself. It’s widely known that if you’re not sure whether a chain mail claim is accurate, you turn to Snopes.com, and if you want to check the accuracy of a politician’s claims in the US, you turn to Factcheck.org.

    If you took Ben Goldacre’s graded list of health claims, put it on this website, made it easily accessible and searchable, and then continued to expand on it day by day, you could turn Science-ish into just as essential a reference tool as Snopes or Factcheck.

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