Life as an Extreme Sport

Another Kind of Fake News: Covert Marketing As Academic Research

Fake news and bad reporting (faithless journalism, perhaps) have been in the news pretty extensively since the election, and folks are trying to detangle trust, knowledge, and facts from fake news and click-bait headlines. One topic I haven’t seen addressed much is news around science articles – oh, I see the discussion of click-bait headlines and the flipflops of EGGS GOOD/BAD/WHO KNOWS. But what I don’t see so much of is a discussion of author affiliation. For example, the Washington Post published a Wellness article about choline last week that caught my eye. There were an awful lot of claims being made about this supposed wonder-nutrient we don’t get enough of, and reading the original article seemed like a good idea. So I did. Now, something that might not occur to folks is a normal part of reading academic articles for me: looking at author affiliations and disclosures for conflicts-of-interest.

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Amazon’s “Toxic Culture” Doesn’t Come from My Needs as a Customer

Oh Internet, I tire. I really, really tire of reading rapidly tossed off think pieces that want to make broadly declarative statements as if they were the first to ever encounter such an idea. For example, did you know “we like-we really, really like-to get things cheap”? Annalisa Merelli wasn’t sure you were aware of this, so she–along with too many other think pieces to name–decided that the New York Times’ article about Amazon’s toxic work culture was the perfect time to place the blame of that culture squarely where it belongs: on the consumer. Which is a bit of an interesting claim, since, as the Seattle Times noted–and they’re a good paper to note this, given their proximity to the tech industry in the last forever–pretending that Amazon’s “toxic culture” is something new and unique to Amazon is ignoring the history of the tech industry as a whole, which

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Help Stop Ebola with this One Simple Trick!*

I mean, other than donating to aid organizations that desperately need help, that is. See, yesterday, it was revealed there was yet another Western person being treated with ZMapp. Yep, that experimental drug that the world supposedly ran out of last week. Except, apparently, when there’s a Briton involved, in which case, someone checked behind the couch cushions, NIH thought to look in an unused cold storage closet, or who knows–because that’s the problem. The world now knows British man Will Pooley received at least one dose of ZMapp and will receive more, and no one has explained how the Royal Free Hospital happened to stumble across these doses that theoretically didn’t exist. In fact, all they’re saying is [T]he team treating the nurse had sourced the drug through its clinical networks with the help of international colleagues. Well, that’s not at all suspicious. Clinical contacts? International experts? Sure, that

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Paternalism, Procedure, Precedent: The Ethics of Using Unproven Therapies in an Ebola Outbreak

The WHO medical ethics panel convened Monday to discuss the ethics of using experimental treatments for Ebola in West African nations affected by the disease. I am relieved to note that this morning they released their unanimous recommendation: “it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.” There are, of course, the common caveats about ethical criteria guiding the interventions, but ultimately the recommendation has saved me from a tortured “WHO’s on first”-style commentary.[note]For other commentary on the committee composition, see Udo Schuklenk’s short, sweet, and to the point commentary; you can also read his reaction to their statement here.[/note] I’m sure we all appreciate that. But just because the WHO recommendation follows what I’ve been arguing for the last 10-odd days doesn’t mean that the argument is actually over. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s

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Virtually Speaking Science: A New Place to Find Me on the Interwebs

In what is likely the worst “kept under wraps” bit of news in a while, I’m happy to announce that I’m joining the Virtually Speaking Science collective as a new host. But before I get to roll out the welcome mat and chatter with other people about their work, I’m going under the interviewee lens; Jennifer Ouellette is interviewing me Wednesday, May 14, at 8pm ET/5pm PT. What is Virtually Speaking Science? It is a live webcast ‘radio’ with a digital, Second Life studio audience of: [i]nformal conversations hosted by science writers Alan Boyle, Tom Levenson and Jennifer Ouellette, who explore the often-volatile landscape of science, politics and policy, the history and economics of science, science deniers and its relationship to democracy, and the role of women in the sciences. I’ve been having a blast getting to know my co-hosts, setting up my Second Life avatar, and getting to know

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