Battling bad science

Ben Goldacre

This might be one of the most important science videos you have ever watched (and one of the most entertaining). Ben Goldacre knows a lot about science, and he certainly knows how to spot flaws and deception in science. I will not say more on this, just watch the video.

A history of human experimentation

As you have likely heard, experimentation in humans has met with all sorts of obstacles. One major problem is that historically, experimentation was not done with participant consent or even knowledge. No question, experimentation in humans has advanced our health, but it has to be done properly to protect all citizens. In this SciShow video clip we learn of some of only a few of the many occasions when human rights were abridged.

Biases, correlation and causality

There are all sorts of difficulties that can be encountered in research. Confounded variables, statistical errors, sample sizes that are too small to yield reliable outcomes, and a variety of biases on the part of researchers as well as participants that affect the outcomes observed. One of the most common problems encountered concerns biases not being considered adequately, and the second is mistaking correlation for causality. Check out this brief Dnews video covering this topic as well as superstitious behaviour that can evolve.

What is a model?

The term ‘model’ has many meaning, but in the context of research we usually think of a model as a conceptual tool that is used so that we can make predictions from one situation to another (e.g. generalizing from animal to human conditions). There are rules about developing and using models, and the videos here (from Risk Bites) describe the appropriate and inappropriate use of models.

The measurement conundrum

If I can detect an environmental toxicant or a toxin present in the body, does that mean it is more dangerous than when they are undetectable? The next two videos describe the conundrum, which has become ever more relevant given the development of increasingly sensitive detection method. It is fine to have more sensitive detection methods, but when does it tell us more, and when do low levels of certain agents have little meaning in relation to our well-being other than causing a media stir?

Sensitivity and specificity

In the time of COVID-19, most people have become aware of some difficulties associated with making and testing vaccines as well as whether to trust them or not. These clips describe the difference (and importance) between specificity and sensitivity and the occurrence of false negatives and false positives (and their implications)

Intro to systematic reviews & meta-analyses

Not every study on a given topic will provide the same results. This may stem from somewhat different procedures, the variability in the data and the number of participants included in each experiment. Meta-analyses and systematic reviews attempt to make sense of the data given the divergences in methods. The two videos that follow tackle the same issues but bring a few different topics to this.

Here is a slightly longer video on the same topic. It includes several examples of studies and the use of different experimental approaches.