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Ben Goldacre

| awards = {{Plainlist| | website = }} Ben Michael Goldacre (born 20 May 1974) is a British physician, academic and science writer. As of March 2015, he is a Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, part of the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. He is a founder of the AllTrials campaign and OpenTrials to require open science practices in clinical trials. Goldacre is known in particular for his Bad Science column in The Guardian, which he wrote between 2003 and 2011, and is the author of three books: Bad Science (2008), a critique of irrationality and certain forms of alternative medicine; Bad Pharma (2012), an examination of the pharmaceutical industry, its publishing and marketing practices, and its relationship with the medical profession, "Pick your pill out of a hat", economist.com, 29 September 2012. and I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That, a collection of his journalism. Goldacre frequently delivers free talks about bad science—he describes himself as a "nerd evangelist".

Early life and education

Goldacre is the son of Michael Goldacre, a professor of public health at the University of Oxford, and Susan Traynor (stage name, Noosha Fox) lead singer of 1970s' pop band Fox, both of whom are Australian. He is the nephew of Robyn Williams, a science journalist, and the great-great-grandson of Sir Henry Parkes, politician and journalist who is considered the father of the Australian Federation. He has two children. Goldacre was educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford. He studied medicine at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he obtained a first-class Bachelor of Arts honours degree during his preclinical studies in 1995 in Physiological Sciences. He edited the Oxford student magazine, Isis. Goldacre was a visiting researcher in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Milan, working on fMRI brain scans of language and executive function. Following his studies at the Universities of Oxford and Milan, Goldacre studied clinical medicine at UCL Medical School, qualifying as a medical doctor in 2000 with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MB, BS) degree. He also received a Master of Arts degree in philosophy from King's College London in 1997.

Career and research

Scientific career

Goldacre passed the Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) Part II examinations in December 2005 and became a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He was made a research fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry in London in 2008, and a Guardian research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, in 2009. In 2012, Goldacre was appointed a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.{{Cite journal | pmid = 22315246 | pmc = 3934788 | year = 2012 | author1 = Staa | first1 = T. P. | title = Pragmatic randomised trials using routine electronic health records: Putting them to the test | journal = BMJ (Clinical research ed.) | volume = 344 | pages = e55 | last2 = Goldacre | first2 = B | last3 = Gulliford | first3 = M | last4 = Cassell | first4 = J | last5 = Pirmohamed | first5 = M | last6 = Taweel | first6 = A | last7 = Delaney | first7 = B | last8 = Smeeth | first8 = L | doi = 10.1136/bmj.e55 }}Haynes, Laura; Service, Owain; Goldacre, Ben; Torgerson, David. "Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials", cabinetoffice.gov.uk, Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team (UK), June 2012. In 2015, Goldacre moved to the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, joining a project funded by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Laura and John Arnold Foundation announces funding support to create open online database clinical trials, arnoldfoundation.org; accessed 27 July 2015. As of 2016, according to Scopus and Google Scholar his most cited articlesBen Goldacre's have been published in NeuroReport, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), The Lancet, and PLOS ONE.

"Bad Science" Guardian column and blog

Goldacre is known for his weekly column, "Bad Science," in the Saturday edition of The Guardian, which he started in 2003 and wrote until November 2011. Devoted to criticism of scientific inaccuracy, health scares and pseudoscience, the column focuses on the media, marketing, problems with the pharmaceutical industry, and its relationship with medical journals and alternative-medicine practitioners.Goldacre, Ben. (2008). A quick fix would stop drug firms bending the truth, The Guardian.Goldacre, Ben. (2008). The danger of drugs … and data. The Guardian. He has been a particularly hardline critic of the nutritionist Gillian McKeith, anti-immunisation campaigners (particularly followers of Andrew Wakefield such as Melanie Phillips and Jeni Barnett), Brain Gym, bogus positive MRSA swab stories in tabloid newspapers, publication bias,Goldacre, Ben (2008). Missing in action: the trials that did not make the news. The Guardian. and the makers of the product Penta Water. While investigating McKeith's membership of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, Goldacre purchased a "certified professional membership" on behalf of his late cat, Henrietta, from the same institution for $60. In February 2007 McKeith agreed to stop using the title "Doctor" in her advertising, following a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority by a "Bad Science" reader. In an interview with Richard Saunders of the podcast Skeptic Zone, Goldacre said, "Nutritionists are particularly toxic because they are the alternative therapists who, more than any other, misrepresent themselves as being men and women of science." In 2008, Matthias Rath, a vitamin entrepreneur, sued Goldacre and The Guardian over three articles, No way to treat an Aids hero, The Guardian, 20 January 2007 'Gambia's president may be weird, but Aids superstitions strike closer to home’, The Guardian, 27 January 2007. 'How money is not the only barrier to Aids patients getting hold of drugs’, The Guardian, 17 February 2007. in which Goldacre criticised Rath's promotion of vitamin pills to AIDS sufferers in South African townships. Rath dropped his action in September 2008 and was ordered to pay initial costs of £220,000 to The Guardian. The paper is seeking full costs of £500,000, and Goldacre has expressed an interest in writing a book about Rath and South Africa, as a chapter on the subject had to be cut from his book while the litigation proceeded. The chapter was reinstated in a later edition of the book, and also published online.Goldacre, Ben. Matthias Rath – steal this chapter, badscience.net, 9 April 2009. Goldacre continues to cite Rath as a proponent of harmful pseudoscience.

Bad Science (2008)

Goldacre's first book, Bad Science, was published by Fourth Estate in September 2008. The book contains extended and revised versions of many of his Guardian columns. It was positively reviewed by the British Medical Journal ( BMJ) and The Daily Telegraph, and reached the Top 10 bestseller list for Amazon Books. It was nominated for the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize. In an interview in 2008, Goldacre said that "one of the central themes of my book Science is that there are no real differences between the $600 billion pharmaceutical industry and the $50 billion food supplement pill industry." Ben Goldacre interviewed, The Science Show, Part 2, Australian Broadcasting Company.

Bad Pharma (2012)

His second book, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, was published in the UK in September 2012 and in the United States and Canada in February 2013. "The drugs don't work: a modern medical scandal", The Guardian, 21 September 2012. In the book he argues that: Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don't like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug's true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug's life, and even then they don't give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their forty years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works through ad hoc oral traditions, from sales reps, colleagues or journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies – often undisclosed – and the journals are too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure.Bad Pharma, p. xi.

Other journalism and writing

Goldacre contributed to The Atheist's Guide to Christmas (2009), a charity book featuring essays and anecdotes from 42 well-known atheists and apatheists, on the subject of "the power of ideas". Atheist Bus – Official Website » The Atheist's Guide To Christmas (AKA The Atheist Book Campaign), atheistbus.org.uk; accessed 27 July 2015. He describes himself as an apatheist. He also wrote the foreword to a reissue of Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Healthcare by Imogen Evans, Hazel Thornton, Iain Chalmers and Paul Glasziou, published by Pinter & Martin in March 2010. He has had several articles published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on the MMR vaccine,{{Cite journal | last1 = Goldacre | first1 = B. | title = MMR: The scare stories are back | doi = 10.1136/bmj.39280.447419.59 | journal = BMJ | volume = 335 | issue = 7611 | pages = 126–127 | year = 2007 | pmid = 17634177 | pmc =1925159 }} science journalism,{{Cite journal | last1 = Goldacre | first1 = B. | title = How doctors can get behind the headlines | doi = 10.1136/bmj.39160.566285.47 | journal = BMJ | volume = 334 | issue = 7594 | pages = 613–613 | year = 2007 | pmid = 17379907 | pmc =1832019 }}{{Cite journal | last1 = Goldacre | first1 = B. | title = Journalists: Anything to declare? | doi = 10.1136/bmj.39328.450000.59 | journal = BMJ | volume = 335 | issue = 7618 | pages = 480–480 | year = 2007 | pmid = 17823189 | pmc =1971144 }} and related topics.{{Cite journal | last1 = Goldacre | first1 = B. | title = Behold the Christmas miracle of antioxidants | doi = 10.1136/bmj.39413.403750.59 | journal = BMJ | volume = 335 | issue = 7630 | pages = 1124–1124 | year = 2007 | pmid = 18048537 | pmc =2099529 }}{{Cite journal | last1 = Goldacre | first1 = B. | title = Beware of mentioning psychosocial factors | doi = 10.1136/bmj.39370.657130.59 | journal = BMJ | volume = 335 | issue = 7624 | pages = 801–801 | year = 2007 | pmid = 17947783 | pmc =2034685 }} In June 2012, he collaborated with the Behavioural Insights Team of the UK government on a policy paper on the use of randomised controlled trials, Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials and in May 2013, he wrote the foreword to the 'Official Guidebook' of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.http://www.badscience.net/2013/12/heres-my-intro-to-the-romney-hythe-and-dimchurch-railway-guidebook/ In March 2014, he worked on a systematic review of the side effects of statins compared with placebos, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Although many newspapers that covered the review said that it found that statins have "virtually no side effects", Goldacre criticized this coverage as inaccurate. For example, he noted that the study relied on data from trial reports, which are likely to be incomplete. Several of Goldacre's articles were assembled into the October 2014 release I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That.

Awards and honours

Goldacre has won several awards including:


External links

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