Healthy Evidence
2,830 members317 posts

Is this discussion forum run by Sense About Science?

I notice that Sense about Science 'members' are involved in providing answers to many questions. Given the organisation's close relationship with the healthcare (and other life science) industries, are we seeing a truly balanced view of healthcare in their replies?. In view of the attitude of pharma companies to data disclosure, as demonstrated by Tamiflu, how can ever be confident that commercially-influenced 'evidence' is reliable?

7 Replies

Have they close relationships with healthcare industries?

Going by the fact that some of their more high profile supporters are known critics of pharmaceutical industry, for instance, and many others are well respected scientists and specialists in their fields, and a whole other group are young scientists who have no long-term association with anyone, I would think your description of the organisation is probably a bit wrong. Or a lot wrong.

Sense About Science is all about debunking the many and varied science myths pushed in the media and by celebs and helping people make their own judgements based on solid science and not pseudo science.

You can find out more simply by clicking the about link above.


I share your suspicions. This forum feels like the Colosseum on a bad day.

The attempt of so many medical scientists to pretend that somehow there is uncontaminated evidence 'out there' is laughable, not least because from the very beginning, the research questions asked often already set up the answers that will be found and that is because the funding comes from a source that 'prefers' one answer rather than another.

You will of course find a cascade of rabid responses will now fall on your head for daring to ask the question you did.

I am sure you are capable of doing your own research but and both offer interesting perspectives and a wealth of bibliographical references that suggest Sense about Science should be treated warily and so too those who rush to answer so many of the questions here.

Ho hum, putting my armour on now.


As an organisation that takes nothing as read and digs deep into anything that sounds suspicious Skeptics in the Pub have found that the closest we have got to the best evidence is through Sense About Science, Science-based medicine, NHS Choices, Good-thinking, etc... Science is all about best evidence and we always keep an open mind so that when better evidence is revealed we are willing to take that on board and change our minds. However if you believe that organisations who are pro-science are all "paid shills of Big Pharma" then you are heading down a very dark alley. Big Pharma has a lot to answer for and if you read Ben Goldacre you will understand why. However Sense About Science and others keep an eye on any claims that may be hyped or misleading. Final word from us on this. It is invariably good science (not pseudo-science) that eventually discovers science-fraud. That is how it is set up.


You only have to observe threads at The Guardian's Comment is Free on the subject of (for example) Ukraine to realise how much blogging is by paid shills. This teaches you to be sceptical about every post on every blog.

I, for example, am sceptical about the poster called "Bioburden". What agenda is that poster pursuing, I wonder.

The point about science is that its answers survive only as long as there is insufficient evidence to support a better answer. Scientists progress in their careers by knocking the ruling theory off his throne. Their career progress depends on debunking the theory that dominates for the time being. This is the safeguard, that allows us to put our trust in evidence-based science (as opposed to Bioburden's common sense, irrational convictions, suspicions and gut feelings that one conspiracy or another somehow runs the world).

If there are many members of Sense About Science populating these pages, perhaps that is because they are scientists that are passionate about the importance of assessing evidence dispassionately, and wish to communicate that passion to others.


FourMark, I have no 'agenda' to pursue, nor am I irrational or mired in conspiracy theories. I am, in fact, a well qualified life scientist, with 30 years experience in healthcare, 20 of that in industry including in research, marketing and senior management. I speak from a position of knowledge and experience that the influence of the biosciences industry is far greater than most people realise. I personally was paid by one employer to cultivate relationships with clinical opinion leaders to get them to publish industry generated data as if it was their own, to support NICE guidelines that used our products, and I worked with colleagues to devise trials that made our products look good and our competitors' products less favourable. There's a lot of good in the biosciences industry, not least plenty of employment for scientists, some wonderful innovators producing some great medicines and technology, but there's also a lot of murky marketing and an enormous amount of lobbying that goes unseen. Sense About Science looks to me to be part of that.

Yes, there does need to be a better understanding of the science and technology by the general public, as your average person on the street doesn't have the ability to think critically, but the first loyalty of industry is to their shareholders, and if that means burying data (which DID happen with Tamiflu), or spinning out good stories to keep up the shiny image of previously tarnished company, then they will do it.


Thanks for that, Bioburden. I'm not a drug industry insider, so you know more than me about that. But I am a keen reader.

Do you know what stance Sense About Science (the charity as such, as opposed to one or other of its supporters) takes, on Ben Goldacre's drive in The Guardian, to publish all trial results?

Yes of course corporations do all they can to further their interests and those of their shareholders. That is why the government should explain this to people, foster competition between corporations, and then force transparency.

As ever "You get what you pay for" and so do corporations, when they pay for trial data to be gathered. So part of the transparency needs to be where the data came from, and who paid for its creation, so People can give it due weight.

Do you have suspicions that Dick Taverne is a paid shill of the pharma industry? That would be interesting.


Ben Godacre is a supporter of Sense About Science - the All Trials campaign is a collabrative campaign that includes Bad Science and Sense About Science:

Other campaigns include Evidence Based Medicine, Keep Libel Laws out of science and Don't Destroy Research - none of which I suspect would be possible if they were in the pockets of large health companies, wouldn't you say?


You may also like...