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Don’t expect to see chemical safety data sheets in restaurants Ken Perrott May 21

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I keep coming across this very naive form of chemophobic scare-mongering – the use of safety data sheets to frighten consumers about trace chemicals in their environment, food and drink.

Here is an example anti-fluoridation propagandists continually use – safety data sheets for fluoridation chemicals like fluorosilicic acid. Often these people simply reproduce the image without comment – thinking this somehow proves their argument!

data sheets

I have discussed this issue for water treatment chemicals before (see Water treatment chemicals – why pick on fluoride?).

First, we need to be clear – Safety Data Sheets (or Material Safety Data Sheets) are not relevant to the chemicals we come across in our food drink – at the concentration they exist in these foods or drink. The safety data sheets are there for the use of those workers who must handle, transport  and dispose of concentrated chemicals. As Wikipedia explains:

“A SDS [Safety Data Sheet] for a substance is not primarily intended for use by the general consumer, focusing instead on the hazards of working with the material in an occupational setting.”

In the article I link to above I give information, including that from safety data sheets, for the range of chemicals used in water treatment. Chemicals like Aluminium sulphate or alum, used as a flocculation and coagulation agent and chlorine which is used as a disinfection agent (here is the safety data sheet for chlorine).

The safety data sheets for these chemicals can be just as scary as for fluorosilicic acid. Even scarier for chlorine, which was used as a chemical weapon in the first world war. And the information is important for the people handling the concentrated chemicals, manufacturing them, transporting them and disposing of them to waste where necessary.

truck

Safety data sheets are important for people transporting concentrated chemicals.

But these sheets are completely irrelevant to people interested in the safety and nutritional value of their food which do not contain such concentrated chemicals (except for water, of course).

1378728302_Food-and-Drink-3

Safety data sheets are irrelevant to consumers of food and drink –  don’t expect your waiting staff to provide them in a restaurant.

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Being open-minded Ken Perrott May 19

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This meme is for those commenters here who accuse me of having a closed mind.

open minded

I am always happy to change my opinion or view of things – if there is evidence to suggest I should.

And no, claims that “science once thought the world was flat,” or “science once supported smoking,” is not a credible argument that we should ignore current scientific consensus. It’s especially not an argument we should suddenly adopted unsupported claims as “gospel truth.”

Along these same lines, it’s worth considering this quote from Carl Sagan – if you want me to consider a really extraordinary claim your evidence had better be exceptional.

extra

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RSNZ Science Book Prize winner – Tangata Whenua Ken Perrott May 17

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Tangata Whenua: an Illustrated History won the Royal Society of NZ Science 2015 book prize. It is written by Atholl Anderson, the late Dame Judith Binney and Aroha Harris and published by Bridget Williams Books. The book charts the sweep of Māori history from ancient origins through to the twenty-first century.

In announcing this result on Friday Dr Andrew Cleland, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of New Zealand, noted that Tangata Whenua incorporates research from a range of disciplines from the sciences, including social science, and the humanities, which mirrors the breadth of scholarship supported by the Society.

In addition to being a history, the book is based on research on genetics and climate science as well as:

  • archaeology (the study of past human activity through material left behind by human populations)
  • anthropology (study of human society)
  • ethnography (study of culture)
  • paleoecology (study of past ecosystems or environments, reconstructed from fossils).

The other books shortlisted for the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Book Prize were:

  • The Wandering Mind by Michael Corballis (Auckland University Press)
  • Gathering Evidence by Caoilinn Hughes (Victoria University Press)
  • Dolphins of Aotearoa: Living with New Zealand Dolphins by Raewyn Peart (Craig Potton Publishing)
  • Manuka: the Biography of an Extraordinary Honey by Cliff Van Eaton (Exisle Publishing)

You can buy your own copy from Whitcoulls for $99.99.

See also:

New Zealand science book prize – 2015 Short list
The Long Journey to Aotearoa – Veronika Meduna, Radio NZ, talks to Atholl Anderson

The problem of “Fact-Resistant Humans” Ken Perrott May 14

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Borowitz-Earth-Endangered-by-Fact-Resistant-Humans-1200

OK, this is satire so don’t take it literally. But this article in The New Yorker makes a good point – Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans.


MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

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Water fluoridation effective – new study Ken Perrott May 11

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A recent Australian study shows community water fluoridation (CWF)  has a beneficial effect on oral health, even after taking into account the known effects of socioeconomic status and sugar consumption.

This is important because anti-fluoride propagandists are always pushing the mistaken claim that CWF is based only on “old science” and that “the science establishment” refuses to check these old findings. These propagandists have also latched onto the concern over the effects of excessive sugar consumption on general and oral health to claim that any apparent beneficial effect of CWF would disappear if sugar consumption was reduced.

The study is reported in:

Blinkhorn, A. S., Byun, R., Mehta, P., & Kay, M. (2015). A 4-year assessment of a new water-fluoridation scheme in New South Wales, Australia. International Dental Journal.

It  followed changes in the dental health of children in Gosford City, NSW, after introduction of CWF in 2008. It compared this with the oral health of children living in areas that had been fluoridated for over 40 years, and with those in the Shires of Ballina and Byron which were unfluoridated and had no plans to introduce CWF.

CWF clearly beneficial

The figure below compares the average numbers of decayed, missing and filled teeth (dmft) of 5-7 year-old children in 2008 (just before introduction of CWF to Gosford city – the “newly fluoridated area) with new batches of 5-7 year-old children in 2010 and 2012. In all three periods comparisons were made to similar children in the unfluoridated and long-term fluoridated areas.

dmft-aus1

Of course, anti-fluoridation activists might pick up on the improved oral health of children in unfluoridated areas in 2012 (and they might even try to ignore the rest of the data). But the clear message is that even though there may be a general improvement in oral health over time the children in the fluoridated areas still showed a clear benefit.

Influence of other factors

This study included measurement of other factors known to influence oral health. Statistical analysis of the data showed poorer dental health was significantly related to:

  • lower socioeconomic status;
  • origins (poorer dental health when mothers were born in a non-English speaking country;
  • lower educational level attained by parents, and
  • sugary drink consumption (poorer dental health where children consumed one or more drinks a day).

But, importantly, the statistical analysis showed a significant beneficial influence of CWF after taking these other factors into account. The following graph compares the dmft for newly fluoridated and unfluoridated areas relative to long-term fluoridated areas (defined as 1.0)

dmft-aus2

We can see that by 2012, 4 years after introduction of CWF, there is no significant difference between the oral health of children in the long-term and newly fluoridated areas. However, the oral health of children in the unfluoridated areas was significant poorer at all times.

Conclusion

Origins, socioeconomic status and consumption of sugary drinks have a statistically significant effect on children’s oral health. However, even when these are taken into account this research shows a clear beneficial effect of CWF on children’s dental health.

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Follow the money? Ken Perrott May 08

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The distrust of science – a task for science communication Ken Perrott May 06

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Michael Foley

Michael Foley, a Senior Lecturer in Public health dentistry at The University of Queensland has an interesting  article in The Conversation* – ‘Holistic’ dentistry: more poppycock than panacea?

He declares that “all dentists should be practicing holistic medicine.” After all, the World health Organisation’s definition of health (“a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”) “sits very well with the concept of holistic dentistry”

But, as Foley says, dentists “should all be practising evidence-based dentistry, too.”

And there is the problem. A perfectly legitimate term has been hijacked in an effort to misinform possible clients. An internet search shows most Australian holistic dentists also endorse and encourage alternative therapies like:

homeopathy, naturopathy, Bach flower essences, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, chiropractic, ayurvedic medicine, osteopathy, kinesiology, crystals, aromatherapy, reiki, vibrational healing, Buteyko and esoteric chakra-puncture.”

As he says, despite  his belief that “Most holistic dental practices will provide a wonderfully caring and nurturing environment for patients .. . . a patient-dentist relationship must also be based on trust and professionalism.”

The placebo effect is not enough and reliance on it could even be dangerous.

But alternative health practices like this do have a market – and for some people their appeal lies with their distrust of science.

Distrust of science and the power of consensus

Sander van der Linden and Stephan Lewandowsky discuss this distrust and how to combat it in a recent scientific American article – How to Combat Distrust of Science.

They centre their argument around the issue of climate science, but I think they are also relevant to alternative health and the distrust of health experts common in our society.

On the one hand they attribute difference in the acceptance of science to the way that people interpret the same information very differently.

“As psychologists, we are more than familiar with the finding that our brains selectively attend to, process and recall information. One consequence of this is “confirmation bias,” a strong tendency to automatically favor information that supports our prior expectations. When we consider issues that we feel strongly about (e.g., global warming), confirmation bias reaches a new height: it transitions into “motivated reasoning.” Motivated reasoning is the additional tendency to defensively reject information that contradicts deeply held worldviews and opinions. One example of this is the “motivated rejection of science”; if you are personally convinced that global warming is a hoax, you are likely to reject any scientific information to the contrary – regardless of its accuracy.”

A message for science communicators

That is an argument which could suggest that science communicators are “just blowing in the wind.”

On the other hand the authors argue that “expert consensus” can counter this.

“Our research shows that highlighting how many experts agree on a controversial issue has a far-reaching psychological influence. In particular, it has the surprising ability to “neutralize” polarizing worldviews and can lead to greater science acceptance.”

In their work they found that if people had been exposed to background material containing the message “97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening” they actually increased their estimate of scientific support for human-caused climate change by about 13% (and 20% in some cases). In later work they found a causal link between highlighting expert consensus and increased science acceptance.

This suggests to me that many people may take up an essentially anti-science stance because they are just unaware of the facts of consensus, or are under the illusion that scientific dissent is greater than the objective facts show.

I see that as a positive message. We often concentrate on the anti-science position of ideologically motivated people and forget that the majority are probably misinformed – both about the science and the degree of expert consensus. It is this majority, rather than the ideologically motivated science distrusters, who science communicators need to target.

Are we biologically wired to accept consensus?

The authors suggest there are good biological reasons for the positive effect of consensus information and the negative effect of dissent information on the acceptance of science.

“One feature that clearly distinguishes “consensus” from other types of information is its normative nature. That is, consensus is a powerful descriptive social fact: it tells us about the number of people who agree on important issues (i.e., the norm within a community). Humans evolved living in social groups and much psychological researchhas shown that people are particularly receptive to social information. Indeed, consensus decision-making is widespread in human and non-human animals. Because decision-strategies that require widespread agreement lie at the very basis of the evolution of human cooperation, people may be biologically wired to pay attention to consensus-data.”

That is also sensible:

” Imagine reading a road sign that informs you that 97% of engineers have concluded that the bridge in front of you is unsafe to cross. You would likely base your decision to cross or avoid that bridge on the expert consensus, irrespective of your personal convictions. Few people would get out of their car and spend the rest of the afternoon personally assessing the structural condition of the bridge (even if you were an expert).”

And practical:

” it makes perfect sense for people to use expert consensus as a decision-heuristic to guide their beliefs and behavior. Society has evolved to a point where we routinely defer to others for advice—from our family doctors to car mechanics; we rely on experts to keep our lives safe and productive. Most of us are constrained by limited time and resources and reliance on consensus efficiently reduces the cost of individual learning.”

The message, then, is:

“A recent study showed that people are more likely to cling onto their personal ideologies in the absence of “facts.” This suggests that in order to increase acceptance of science, we need more “facts.” We agree but suggest that this is particularly true for an underleveraged but psychologically powerful type of fact — expert consensus.”

The “merchants of doubt”

The ideologically and commercially motivated opponents of science recognise this – hence their attempts to sow doubt on the scientific consensus.

They will promote the message that there is no consensus. Or that the very fact of a consensus is somehow a “proof” the science is wrong because scientific understanding will change in the future (the Galileo gambit – see The Galileo fallacy and denigration of scientific consensus).

They will promote the message that the experts are frauds (eg Climategate) “shills” – in the pay of political or economic forces – Big Pharma, the fertiliser industry in the case of fluoridation, etc. Ironic, really, because these very anti-science propagandists are often themselves supported and/or financed by energy companies (in the case of climate change deniers) and “natural”/alternative health big business in the case of anti-fluoridation and anti-vaccination activists

So, perhaps another task for science communicators. propaganda claiming scientific fraud, unethical scientific funding, etc., needs to be countered. But also the public needs to be made aware of the commercial and ideological motivations of those who attempt to misrepresent the science and the expert consensus.


* The conversation has some excellent articles. But Christopher Pyne in his article Government funding for The Conversation website to be axed, reveals that government funding for it is to be stopped.

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April ’15 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking Ken Perrott May 01

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Social-Media_EmailImage credit: Hosting A Competition To Increase Blog Visits

There are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters. (Let me know if I weed out yours by mistake, or get your stats wrong).

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters.

Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for April 2015. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers.

Meanwhile I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

Subscribe to NZ Blog Rankings

Subscribe to NZ blog rankings by Email

Find out how to get Subscription & email updates

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Rank Blog Visits/month Page Views/month
1 Whale Oil 1275864 2708282
2 The Daily Blog 353964 511527
3 Kiwiblog 311709 566587
4 The Standard 226436 483101
5 Auckland Transport Blog 155390 159723
6 Liturgy 46401 69807
7 The Dim-Post 44754 64333
8 Sciblogs 38601 50045
9 NewZeal 28143 36354
10 No Right Turn 20612 27221
11 No Minister 16472 21588
12 13th Floor 16042 24035
13 Music of sound 14470 18721
14 Liberation 13475 17645
14a Tikorangi: The Jury garden 13211 16418
15 Homepaddock 12175 19731
16 Offsetting Behaviour 10659 15907
17 Bill Bennett 9359 12370
18 Keith Johnson Wellington NZ 8764 8961
19 Fields of Blood 8714 12053
20 MandM 8399 9240
21 Talking Auckland 8161 10154
22 Hot Topic 7715 9951
23 Right Reason 7623 10219
24 Open Parachute 7503 9354
25 In the back of the net 7383 9878
26 Dark Brightness 6489 6632
27 Save our Schools NZ 6290 7476
28 Chris no-frills 6279 7704
29 Autism & Oughtisms 5765 5852
30 Cycling in Christchurch 5741 7606
31 Aotearoa: A wider perspective 5285 6479
32 TVHE 5122 5397
33 Anglican down under 5009 7187
34 Lindsay Mitchell 4921 6350
35 OracleNZ by Francisco Munoz Alvarez 4472 4848
36 Quote Unquote 4450 4932
37 Reading the maps 3772 4829
38 Mousehouse 3615 5856
39 The Woolshed Wargamer 3540 5790
39 Lance Wiggs 3540 4216
40 Infectious thoughts 3157 3625
41 Teaching the Teacher 2974 4182
42 Waiology 2753 3332
43 Kiwi Cakes 2582 3658
44 Home education Foundation 2522 4020
45 Otagosh 2496 3950
46 Vomkrieg 2410 4501
47 Nom Nom Panda 2387 2965
48 Rodney’s Aviation Ramblings 2350 2949
49 Windy Hilltops 2345 3746
50 AmeriNZ 2224 2727
51 Scepticon 2148 2419
52 Anti-Dismal 2137 3097
53 New Zealand Conservative 2095 2506
54 Super Rugby Tips 1909 2390
55 Open Parachute @ SciBlogs 1896 2055
56 Woodleigh Nursery 1890 4093
57 Canterbury Atheists 1623 1910
58 Crime Watch 1612 2206
59 Sustain:if:able Kiwi 1521 2405
60 Pdubyah –  a life just as ordinary 1481 2509
61 Code for Life 1474 1649
62 Off the couch 1399 1829
63 Life Behind the IRon Drape 1358 3186
64 Put ’em all on an island 1249 1503
6 5 Derek’s blog 1244 1880
6 6 Man of Errors 1239 1370
6 7 Eye on the ICR 1234 1536
6 8 james lin’s blog 1203 1222
69 Wysiwygpurple’s Blog 1143 1686
70 Michael Jeans 1131 1635
71 ICT Teaching and Learning 1107 1655
72 Undeniably Atheist 1093 1300
73 On the Left 1087 1536
74 Keeping stock 1074 1307
75 Keeping Stock 1065 1311
76 Life is not a race to be finished first 1029 1445
77 Social Media & the 2014 Election 1020 1196
78 Helen Heath 1016 1185
79 Blessed Economist 953 1260
80 Stratford Aerodrome 934 1280
81 misc.ience @ Sciblogs 904 990
82 My thinks 895 995
83 From the Earth’s End 829 1260
84 Notes from the bartender 815 961
85 Show your workings 777 1086
86 A communist at large 756 988
87 Scotty Donaldson 726 822
88 Socialist Aotearoa 720 790
89 A Bee of a Certain Age 714 788
90 One Furious Llama 713 991
91 Brad Heap 648 843
92 The REAL Steve Gray 602 794
93 Hitting Metal With A Hammer 597 748
94 PM of NZ 591 665
95 Brennan McDonald 581 653
96 Islamnz.com 545 604
97 Episto 541 615
98 The IT Countrey Justice 526 640
99 Polit Ecol 502 579
100 Tararua District Library 492 577
101 Ideologically impure 489 539
102 Get Out Gertrude! 478 754
103 Kidney Punch  446 484
104 sticK 437 539
105 True Paradigm 430 598
106 Perissodactyla 428 517
107 Quietly in the backgroud 428 517
108 Einstein Music Journal 428 566
109 Exile in New zealand 426 674
110 Artichoke 425 516
111 Stitchbird 405 674
112 Skeptiocon @ Sciblogs 403 447
113 goNZo Freakpower Brains Trust 392 403
114 Riddled 376 570
115 The Fundy Post 367 516
116 Four seasons in one 356 410
117 Goings on at the Madbush Farm 351 422
118 Tauranga Blog 342 391
119 Media Sport and Other Rantings 339 393
120 Jo Blogs 330 575
121 Webweaver’s world 330 381
122 Halfdone 314 355
123 Prior Knowledge  311 345
124 Glenview 9 308 353
125 Science in a van blog 300 360
126 Capitalism is bad 284 339
127 Software development and stuff 280 292
128 roarprawn 278 379
129 eyeCONTACT 268 686
130 Family integrity 268 310
131 SmallTorque 253 264
131 Wokarella 253 340
133 Dad4justice 246 267
134 Spatula Forum 244 266
134 Spatula Forum 244 266
135 Kutarere’s Blog  228 281
136 Kiwidollar.com 216 241
137 Samuel Dennis 209 221
138 The Genetically Insane 206 357
139 University of Otago, Law Library Blog 201 271
140 Cut your hair 193 196
141 ElephaNZa  191 193
142 Cimba7200’s thoughts 176 214
143 MartinIsti Blog 171 224
144 In a strange land 168 192
145 Grumpollie 167 213
146 Unity Blog 165 181
147 Sharlene says 157 233
148 Rest Area 300m 155 1
149 Dragonsinger 154 166
150 kiwi simplexity 150 179
151 King’s High School Library 150 240
152 This Mum Rocks 149 192
153 Ruggerblogger 147 283
154 Aphrodite rises 144 182
155 Canvassing for opinion 141 155
156 The Little Waaagh! That Could 141 182
157 Pointless and adsurb 139 173
158 ZNO 136 173
159 Benisland 135 256
160 $100 Dialysis 134 162
161 Lost Soul 133 154
162 Springston School Library Blog 132 204
163 Toni Twiss 120 120
164 Manaia Kindergarten 120 180
167 John Macilree’s Blog 112 134
165 High voltage learning during the Christchurch earthquakes 110 206
166 Millenium X 104 179
167 Carolyn’s blog 99 116
168 The Well read Kitty 97 101
169 Sam Books and Thoughts 95 152
170 Upstage 92 139
1711 Korero Pt England 90 270
172 Making IT Happen 90 120
176 Write to travel 79 101
177 NZ First Youth 69 105
177 UpsideBackwards 69 73
179 jo russ photo diary 66 105
180 Social Policy Bonds Blog 64 69
181 New Zealand Indian Fine Arts Society 62 64
182 Digital learning 60 90
182 Virtual North 60 60
184 Journey to a mini me 59 106
185 Politicalisation 58 62
186 Fuller’s watch 54 75
187 Something Interesting to read 52 63
188 You’re Underthinking 48 35
189 Ellie Great 47 51
190 Discovery Time 46 66
191 Whitireia Journalism School 44 57
192 Nathanael Baker 41 46
192 Oracle of Okarito 41 44
194 Creative Collision 39 32
195 Shelly van Soest Artist 35 36
196 Busy Peas 34 38
196 round design 34 38
198 Global Village Governance  32 50
198 Joe Hendren 32 44
198 New Zealand female Firefighter calendar 32 42
201 No Mum is an Island 31 56
202 Chris Jillet – Mountaineer# 30 30
202 Pt England Scribes 30 30
202 ICTPD 30 30
202 Sleeping with books 30 30
202 Kiwi Chronicles 30 30
202 But Now 30 30
202 Football Tragic NZ 30 30
202 Anticipating future impacts 30 30
202 Moving the crowd 30 30
211 Frontlawn 29 33
211 KJT 29 30
213 Wine Notes by gary Bowering 27 35
214 In this moment 26 12
214 Looking in the square 26 25
214 Oryan’s World 26 27
217 SageNZ 22 32
217 The First Fifteen @ TIS 22 30
219 ah! New Year’s Resolution 21 24
220 Mad Young Thing 18 20
220 ZL2UCX’s Blog 18 18
222 A developing Geneticist 17 17
222 At home with Rose 17 53
224 kiwiincanberra 16 20
225 Porirua EMO 13 10
225 Relatively science 13 14
225 Stats Chat 13 7
225 Tangled up in purple 13 27
229 Palmerston North.ifo 12 13
230 DMP Lead Free 11 11
230 SilverSpikes Photography  11 11
232 TimG_Oz Blog 9 13
233 Robtuckerpix’s Blog  8 9
234 Think Beyond 7 9
234 Moderation Blog 7 10
236 LoveColour Blog 5 8
236 ROI Marketing 5 5
238 Blair for Mayor 4 7
238 Cluttercut 4 77
238 Greedy for colour 4 1
238 4 2
238 Scott & Sarah Kennedy 4 13
238 The Kiwifruit blog 4 1
238 The Secret Life of Russ  4 7
245 amiria [blog] 3 5
245 Liminal Spaces 3 3
247 TraLIS blog 2 2
247 Rambling Reflections 2 2
247 Unknown Future 2 2
250 Mars 2 Earth 1 1
250 Not PC 1 1
250 ObservatioNZ 1 1
250 Xenolexicon 1 1
250 Earth is my favourite planet 1 1
250 Roger Nome’s progressive Politics 1 1
Yea or Nay 1 1

Wise words from Carl Sagan Ken Perrott Apr 29

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990d910181a24b626311ca4e9c3ea07e

sagan-quote-pseudoscience

Poor peer review – and its consequences Ken Perrott Apr 27

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peer-review-diagram

See below for citations used

The diagram above displays links between the journal, editors and reviewers in the case of the paper Malin & Till (2015). I discussed these links before in Poor peer-review – a case study  but thought a diagram merited a separate post. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” they say.Unfortunately, I suspect, such incestuous arrangements around

Unfortunately, I suspect, such incestuous arrangements around the publication of a scientific paper is probably not too unusual. I guess it is human nature for authors to choose a journal which might be sympathetic (or biased) towards their ideas. In this case, the journal and its editors clearly have an orientation towards chemical toxicity hypotheses. The journal even allows authors to suggest possible referees. So again it is only human nature for the authors to suggest referees they consider sympathetic. Or perhaps it is only human nature for Grandjean or Bellinger to suggest referees they know are sympathetic to their own chemical toxicity hypotheses.

Human nature – but certainly not in the best interests of science – or the best outcome for the paper. The authors could have suggested at least some referees with experience in the field of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And the editors could have done the same. This way they could have produced a better outcome – proper revision of the paper to consider other factors besides chemical toxicity. Or even the withdrawal of the paper itself once everyone realised that their fluoride toxicity hypothesis didn’t stand up to proper testing.

Just imagine if referees like the seven authors of Huber et al (2015) had been considered. I discussed their paper in ADHD link to fluoridation claim undermined again. It considered the same ADHD data as Malin & Till (2015) but found other, non-chemical factors, were implicated. In particular they found a correlation with altitude.  If a referee of the Malin & Till (2015) paper had suggested they consider factors like altitude the Malin & Till (2015) may never have seen the light of day. It would have, at least, been heavily modified.

And we would not have anti-fluoride activists and “natural”/alternative health web pages and magazines promoting the myth that community water fluoridation causes ADHD.

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Choi, A. L., Sun, G., Zhang, Y., & Grandjean, P. (2012). Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(10), 1362–1368.

Choi, A. L., Zhang, Y., Sun, G., Bellinger, D., Wang, K., Yang, X. J., … Grandjean, P. (2015). Association of lifetime exposure to fluoride and cognitive functions in Chinese children: A pilot study. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 47, 96–101.

Grandjean, P., & Landrigan, P. J. (2014). Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurol, 13(March), 330–338.

Huber, R. S., Kim, T.-S., Kim, N., Kuykendall, M. D., Sherwood, S. N., Renshaw, P. F., & Kondo, D. G. (2015). Association Between Altitude and Regional Variation of ADHD in Youth. Journal of Attention Disorders.

Malin, A. J., & Till, C. (2015). Exposure to fluoridated water and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder prevalence among children and adolescents in the United States: an ecological association. Environmental Health, 14.

 

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