The Information Architecture of Medicine is Broken

Ben Goldacre (Bad Science)
Mission City Ballroom
This presentation will be streamed live.
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I am a doctor and a data geek. I worry that data geeks are too easily seduced by the glamour of laboratory science and forget about clinics. Randomised controlled trials are the best tool we have in medicine for finding out if a treatment works or not. Lots of trials are done. Unfortunately, the results of these trials can go missing in action after they are completed.

Missing data is always a challenge: but we also know that “negative results” are more likely to go missing. This means we have a biased sample, overestimating the benefits of treatments. To prevent all this happening, people have set up registers of trial protocols, to be completed before trials begin. These have not been correctly used, and they are not matched to published trials, which show up what data has been left unpublished.

I will describe a small project to fix this, illustrate how that can lead on to fixing other similar problems in medicine, and make a cry for help.

Photo of Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre

Bad Science

Ben is a best-selling author, broadcaster, medical doctor and academic who specialises in unpicking dodgy scientific claims from drug companies, newspapers, government reports, PR people and quacks. Unpicking bad science is the best way to explain good science.

Bad Science (4th Estate) has sold over 400,000 copies, is published in 18 countries, and reached #1 in the UK paperback non-fiction charts. His book exposing bad behaviour in the pharmaceutical industry will be published in 2012 by 4th Estate.

Ben has written the weekly Bad Science Column in the Guardian since 2003. It’s archived on this site along with blogposts, columns for the British Medical Journal, and other writing.

There are lots of clips of Ben on telly here, and a talk at TEDGlobal here. The Placebo Effect is a two-part documentary series he made for BBC Radio 4. The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists is another. He’s appeared on the Today programme lots of times, Any Questions, Newsnight, Start The Week, The Now Show, Loose Ends, PM, Quote Unquote, Watchdog, and various other things. You can find plenty of it if you dig around on the site, along with lectures, podcast interviews, maybe start Here.

He has given over 250 talks in the past 5 years, from comedy clubs and music festivals to universities and schools, government departments, and more. You can book him for after dinner speaking by emailing sballard@unitedagents.co.uk.

He’s received lots of awards for writing, and a few honorary doctorates.

This is what Google thinks about him, this is what the blogs say about Bad Science. He was trained in medicine in Oxford and London.

Ben is 36 and currently works full time as an academic in epidemiology. He does not see private patients.

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