Dead or Alive

For the benefit of people currently going out with, married to, or actually are men attempting to grow fantastic beards: we are referring to the 1980s, not the second rate Victorian wannabes. Like Disraeli and Gladstone knew anything about cool facial hair! Pfft.

OK, so it’s a digression, but what was so great about the Victorian times? What was happening in January 1880?  A bad fog in London. Big whoop, right? What happened in January 1980? The Specials were at Number 1 with Too Much Too Young. One-nil to the Twentieth Century, clearly.

Michael J. Fox could leap from one point in time to another, it’s true because I’ve seen the films. It actually happened. But then he stopped hanging about with his science mate and parts of the car went off to be repurposed for David Hasselhoff.

Then Michael starred in a show that was all about the politics and lies. It was now the late 90s and lies were more popular than the Princess of Wales. It was a time of Tony Blair and spin-doctors and Michael J. Fox’s Spin City.

Politicians lie, the news seems to lie, everything seems to be one big fat lie. And then there’s scientific research – these people are meant to be their country’s brightest and best. They spend year after year studying tough subjects and sitting impossible exams. Surely if anybody knows the right way to behave then clever people should?

But we know different, don’t we.

We know that, as has been pointed out in the recent ACSH article that gave this piece its inspiration, scientists are as happy to lie about their research as Gary from Marketing. Or John in Sales, when he makes out the boost in orders came from his endeavours and not some freak series of events. Or Ffiona in purchasing when she claims the reduction in costs were from her efforts and not the fact that a shift in the exchange rate benefitted the company.

People lie.

There’s ‘oh, I never realised I scratched that car’, through to ‘I really love that band you’re into’, and culminating with ‘ecigs produce toxins and should be banned’.

Where are we going here? To “‘Spin’ in published biomedical literature: A methodological systematic reviewâ€.  Piece of research that concludes: “Spin in biomedical research is prevalent across a range of study designs, including trials, observational studies, diagnostic accuracy studies, and systematic reviews.â€

And there are those who beg us to accommodate the fact that scientists are human too, too excuse their willingness to adjust the truth. Which is all fine and well – but any child of the 80’s knows that You Spin Me was by Dead Or Alive…and that’s what harm reduction boils down to. There’s no room for spinning here.