Archive for August 5th, 2013

Is it just me, or has this summer seen a rise in the number of vanity science headlines?
The latest bit of vanity science is out today, the “grown in the lab piece of tissue”, labelled as a hamburger (US)/beefburger (UK), to be eaten for lunch. The publicity trail has been carefully laid – you just have to follow the hashtag #culturedbeef on Twitter to see the game being played. Many comments, e.g., following the Guardian’s article, raise the issue of cost, something like £200,000. This demonstrates in itself a profound lack of critical thinking. Those who don’t like the idea of killing animals on the grounds of cruelty can simply not eat meat and, in an open society, they can argue the point against meat eating. This is done with some success. The real problem with eating meat is that much of it (but not all – mountain sheep, for example, eat grass) comes from animals eating food humans can consume – grain. So the primary reason for livestock farming, to use the animal and its microbiome to convert the inedible (grass) into the edible has been removed by what could be termed the Fordist industrialisation of food. The cost is ecological: loss of habitat, methane production (a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) and, I suspect, greater energy costs too. (more…)


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The German High Court has upheld the decision by the University of Konstanz to rescind Jan Hendrick Shoen’s PhD.
Hats off to the University for sticking to their principles, despite the fact that this is likely to have cost them precious resources. Many institutions go down the softly, softly, route in fear of litigation, which does nothing for maintaining the integrity of science.

Fraud and sloppiness are not just an internal problem for science. Science is part and parcel of society. Pushing falsehoods can have a very wide impact. A recent article in Forbes highlights this issue, in relation to clnical trials of beta blockers in heart disease. Current European regulations are driven, in part, by a fraudulent clinical trial. These guidelines are being revised, but that takes time, during which doctors have unwittingly caused the deaths of some patients by following these guidelines.

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