Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Preparing and packing for Wilderness 2019

Woohoo, this time next week I should be all packed and ready to go for the 9th Wilderness Festival. I last went in 2017 and am going again for the same reasons - it's lots of fun and my friend Dr Helen Pilcher is giving a talk on Saturday afternoon (4.30pm) in the Books Tent and it will be a lovely family (I'm Auntie Jo to the kids and Oddparent to her eldest) outing, hooray.

Last time I took the world's tiniest, lightest tent along with a sleeping bag and camping mat. It was a bit of a squash, so this time I've booked myself into 'boutique' camping (finally, glamping!) and will not have to bring the following items as they're already included.
  • Tent
  • Thing to sleep on
  • Duvet
  • Pillow
  • Towel
Once again I'm using a combination of Gmail, WorkFlowy, Dropbox and Evernote to organise myself because I need all the help I can get.

  • 1. Maps
  • 2. Software
    • 2a. Gmail
    • 2b. WorkFlowy
    • 2c. Dropbox
    • 2d. Evernote
  • 3. What I'm packing
  • 4. FAQs

1. Maps and useful documents
Annotated map, where the Info centre and meeting points are etc

PDF of camping and entrances

Stage times 2019

Environmental Policy 2019

There's info about my travel tickets and times, festival tickets, alternative travel arrangements including taxi numbers and the postcode for satnavs. I also have info about ISS passes as it's rather nice to be out with friends under an open sky and see the International Space Station pass by.

2. Software 
2a. Gmail All emailed tickets and info are in a Gmail folder called Wilderness 2019. This has been synced so I can access it on my phone and I've opened all the emails on m phone and told them to 'show images'. There's a high chance that before I leave the house (night before) I'll re-do this and take some screenshots of tickets and stuff just in case.  

2b. WorkFlowy I've been using this for years for pretty much everything. It's a list-making marvel which makes it easy to add, move, mark as done or delete new items. If you start making a list and realise you want to add in subsections it's easy, you can just add a heading and indent anything below it (and you can click and drag to move things between headings or between levels of indentation). You can have a go of it yourself here. For Wilderness I'm using it specifically for my Master Packing List so that I can pick out items that might be relevant for a few days away in a field. The WorkFlowy app is also on m phone and sync'd but I'm just using it on the desktop for this. I've transferred the relevant items to Evernote and put check boxes next to them (see below).  

2c. Dropbox I have the app on my phone, behind an additional password, sync'd. All the files I need for Wilderness (stage times and maps PDFs etc) are in there. For extra usefulness I activate settings that will let me access the files offline. Relevant bits can also be enlarged and saved as screenshots and stored in a cameraroll album.  

2d. Evernote This is quite like WorkFlowy but with pictures. You can very easily paste in images and use colour and change the font size etc. This acts as my main one-page info.
  • At the top is stuff I still need to do or buy
  • ...or print
  • 1. Travel Times
  • 2. Tickets
    • 2a. Travel tickets info
    • 2b. Festival tickets info
    • Barcode of festival ticket order
    • Screenshot of main map
  • 3. Taxi numbers just in case
  • 4. Packing list
    • Wilderness' lost property form link just in case 
Here's what the packing list looks like.

3. What I'm packing / to-do list
And here's the actual packing list of what I'm taking. I don't have any prescribed medication but if you do don't forget that, and obviously if you're not glamping you might need a tent, groundsheet, camping mat, sleeping bag and something pillow-ish not to mention a towel. Or a mallet and tent pegs. Also I'm a woman so chaps reading this might want to have a think about blokier items to pack.

3.1 To-do a day or two before
  • Print information and maps
  • Charge up phone charger(s), ensure right cables for packing
  • Check e-tickets are sync'd on phones, screenshots in album, Dropbox sync'd
  • Buy things I need to buy
3.2 Hardware
  • Rucksack to put everything in
  • Day bag to have stuff I need when away from tent
  • Charger + cable (plug probably not a lot of use but you never know (works on trains)) 
  • Torch / headtorch and spare batteries - keep with you so that you can return to your tent after dark with ease
  • Plastic bags - to wrap stuff in and for putting used clothes etc in.
  • Vaguely wondering if I'll regret not buying walkie talkies
3.3 Outside
I'll be spending time away from my tent so need to be comfortable
  • Plastic ground sheet - anything to sit on in case grass is damp. A plastic bag would do
  • Sun cream - weather's gonna weather
  • Anti-bite cream - especially for evenings out
  • Hat / sunglasses as suits
  • Re-useable water bottle (a 'Misc' item but for the daybag)
3.4 Clothing
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • T-shirts
  • Trousers / jeans (or shorts, skirts or dresses if that's your thing)
  • Jumper (can get cooler in evening)
  • Jacket (warm / waterproof)
  • Spare shoes / Wellington boots / flip flops / sandals
  • Pyjamas or nightdress
3.5 Ablutions / health / comfort
  • Toothbrush / paste
  • Wet wipes
  • Liquid soap
  • Deodorant / scent
  • Tampons / liners
  • Nail clippers, scissors, tweezers
  • OTC meds like ibuprofen or dioralyte
  • A bit of talcum is always walcum
  • Ear plugs if your camp site isn't that quiet
  • Plasters
  • Spare insoles for added comfort
  • Hair stuff - clips, comb
3.6 Misc
  • Snacks / sweets / chewing gum - if you're leaving on Monday you'll need to pick up some portable snacks on the Sunday as the site will be closed and you'll be hungry
  • Cash (there are 2 ATMS on site)
  • Re-usable water bottle for day bag
  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Pen / pencil
  • Notebook
  • Reading material - kindle or book 
  • Bunting - this is Wilderness you understand
I'm not packing any exciting outfits as I'm not really the demographic for that but that would probably go in Clothing. There are people who seriously dress up at the festival and bring colourful hats and headdresses. Not me :)

 Above is what the INFORMATION TENT looks like. Lot of bunting there. I want to live in this tent.

4. FAQs
Cash machines: there are 2 ATMS on site (see annotated map)

Family friendly: it's very family friendly. See the bit about trolleys below too.

First aid tent: if you're a bit under the weather (see annotated map)

Food: excellent, not cheap (though General Shop has basic snacks and cooking stuff), ubiquitous
& Water: free, several taps on site (see annotated map), bring a re-usable bottle

Information tent: where you can buy programmes and find out about timing changes and other stuff (see annotated map, it's pretty much in the middle)

Lockers: they have them. You can also charge your phone in them. I didn't investigate cost cos didn't need them last time.

Loos: very nice, usually have mirrors in, mildly posh. You can pay extra for a Loowatt loo which is fancier but don't think you'd need to

Meeting point: by the entrance to family camping, used for several events

Phones 1
Recharge: see bit on lockers above

Phones 2
Switch off cellular data: you won't need 3G or higher, or wifi, for telephone and text, only for internet. Keeping it mostly switched off will preserve your battery life and data use but you can text or ring your friends. I'm with people who have iPhones so I'll switch off iMessage on mine and suggest similar (Settings > Messages) as sending via iMessage involves data and isn't necessary. Just make sure SMS/MSS is on.

You'll need to switch data back on again to send tweets or instagrams or to share pictures via text. I had excellent 3G and general O2 text / call signal throughout the festival. It struggled a little on the last day (when everyone is packing up and arranging to meet people I suppose) but I didn't really need it then. Also for checking the weather app!

Shop: There is a general store that sells all sorts of useful stuff. Get there early if you need serious stuff like camping gear. They also sold spring onions last time I was there. Don't think they sold many but I like the idea that someone had some with their bacon and sausage campfire barbecue arrangement. (Soft drinks, sun lotion, lighters, stoves, sleeping bags, ground sheets, tent pegs, toothpaste, the usual).

Snacks for Monday: if you're leaving by coach or bus etc on Monday grab some snacks on Sunday from the general store or get some toast or something from someone to carry with you. Everyone's shutting down on Monday and there isn't necessarily time to decamp / pack and fetch food before getting to the pickup point. If you can pack something that won't go off without refrigeration before Mon 5 Aug I recommend it.

Trolleys: can be hired in advance or at the entrance to your camp to help you transport your stuff to wherever you park your tent. From Friday evening you can then hire these trolleys overnight or for the weekend to wheel your small children around in.

Twitter / Instagram: @WildernessHQ for both

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Open letter to Autism Directory about having CEASE Therapy offering homeopaths in their listings

I sent this text on 7 July 2019 via Twitlonger (a third party app which will send out a tweet for you containing a link to where the text is stored). Authorise the app, write your text and it will do the rest. If you begin the text with an @ it will send it as a reply (in which case don't fill in the title bit as that'll ruin the reply format).

As of 18 July 2019 the listings remain.

@AutismDirectory @GWT82 Re:

Please remove listings* for CEASE Therapy from your directory as the treatment cannot help people with autism and is exploitative. The acronym stands for "Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression" (itself a misleading statement).

The treatment involves supplements and vitamins, at much higher doses than recommended by the NHS, and can result in diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Tinus Smits (the inventor of CEASE) celebrated diarrhoea as being some sort of 'evidence' of detoxifixation of vaccines

There have been various efforts to stop misleading claims made by people offering CEASE (and in some non-UK cases to stop CEASE practice) as this treatment does not work and is effectively a form of medical neglect with potential harms to autistic kids.

1. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA, UK) has sent Enforcement Notice to 150 homeopaths offering CEASE treatment to remind them of permitted and non-permitted marketing claims Some of these homeopaths who have failed to comply have been referred to Trading Standards.

2. The Federation of Holistic Therapists (UK) will not accept onto its register any homeopath offering CEASE therapy (or homeoprophylaxis - which means offering homeopathic remedies as a [non-functional] alternative to vaccination) - see Section 3.4 in this PDF and general "not endorsed" info on their page Their register has been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA, who report to Parliament).

3. The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) still permits CEASE-offering homeopaths onto their register though the PSA has been working with them over the last two years to try and reduce the risk to the public from this They were re-accredited in 2018/2018 with some restrictions then, controversially, the PSA (re)re-accredited their register in 2018/2019

4. Last week The Good Thinking Society submitted a request for a Judicial Review of the PSA's decision (to re-accredit the SoH) "to keep autistic children safe from homeopaths who offer harmful CEASE therapy" (also

5. Many CEASE practitioners have a listing on an official CEASE website which the Dutch equivalent of the ASA has found to be in breach of advertising standards

6. Naturopaths in British Columbia, Canada are not allowed to advertise or offer CEASE therapy, nor are they allowed to offer anti-vaccination materials or advice, nor claim that vaccination can cause autism

7. Homeopaths are working with vulnerable children without having a DBS check and those who are not members of a Society (registered or otherwise) have no particular oversight for safeguarding. This is effectively a feral treatment (the treatment and advice are often offered via Skype).

In response to the many, many concerns about CEASE and about the regulatory changes some homeopaths are using alternative names (eg EASE for "Easing Autistic Spectrum Expression") or the more general "homeopathic detox" - but cynically the underlying 'treatment' is the same. Please watch out for this.

CEASE Therapy has been around for a while but has only recently become prominent in the last couple of years and as such it wasn't included in the UK's Westminster Commission on Autism publication about Harmful Interventions for Autism

Please do not promote this pointless but harmful treatment to people with autism or parents of autistic children.

*These are the homeopaths listed on your page who offer CEASE, please remove these listings.

• Acorn to Oak Health
• Liesje Cochrane
• Paula Lattimer
• Gill Marshall Homeopathy
• Roberta Young
• Jak Measure
• Dr.Joshi's Center for Autism
• Miranda Parson's Homeopathy
• Alison Roberts Homeopathy

Thank you

I've created a Wikipedia page for the Society of Homeopaths

A few months ago I spotted that the British Homeopathic Association (BHA) and Faculty of Homeopathy (FoH) had Wikipedia pages but the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) didn't and I'd been meaning to create a page to redress that. It's been interesting revisiting some of their activities and with their recent re-accreditation by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) and the Judicial Review into that decision that has been requested by the Good Thinking Society I thought it was time to get a move on, so here it is: Society of Homeopaths.

The BHA's page begins with a paragraph about when the association was formed and by whom, then highlights that homeopathy is an unevidenced pseudoscience before going on to highlight two examples of BHA's activities. The first is about the quality (apparently not great) of the evidence they submitted to the House of Commons Evidence Check on Homeopathy from 2009, the second is about their failed Judicial Review of NHS England's decision to top funding homeopathy.

I followed the same pattern for the SoH page and so far I have the following information in there.
  • An Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) adjudication against the SoH in 2013 for engaging in false advertising and discouraging people from seeking essential treatments
  • SoH considered legal action in 2016 against the ASA after it wrote to UK homeopaths to remind them of the rules for marketing material, but they were advised against it by their legal advisor
  • In 2017 skeptics* complained to the PSA about the SoH as their members were offering CEASE therapy for autism. The PSA put some obligations on the SoH in place but re-accredited them. One of the obligations was to publish a position statement on CEASE (and monitor risks from member homeopaths offering this).
  • In May this year there was an undercover interview by The Times with a number of homeopaths one of whom was both a member of the SoH and also offering 'homeoprophylaxis' (an alternative to vaccination, which doesn't offer any protection). Rather than bring about disciplinary proceedings the SoH defended the member and said they would complain to the press regulator.
  • As a result of the PSA re-accrediting the SoH (on 1 April no less) the GTS has filed a request for a Judicial Review to be undertaken of that decision, you can read more about that here (and donate to the crowdfunder).
*the term skeptics refers not just to bloggers and activists by doctors, scientists, healthcare professionals and patients who are concerned about health claims.

Next to investigate, write, reference and add are
Obviously I want the Wikipedia article to be reasonably encyclopaedic (kind of the point!) but I don't think it's necessary to itemise every single thing. Here are some things I've not added, or only lightly referenced.
  • I've added the latest (as at Sep 2018) official number of society members (according to PSA's accreditation document) but struggled to make sense of the membership numbers overall so haven't included further information. Their current 'About us' website page has 1,200. In their 2009 submission to the HoC EvCheck they give it as 2,500, in 2013 it was 1,300.
  • Probably I won't add anything about the problem of Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University letting the SoH have their conference and AGM on site despite concerns about legitimising homeopathy, not to mention how the university's autistic students might feel about that happening. 
  • Also there's some stuff about alleged links between a (former) SoH staff member and the long-since debunked MMR-autism controversy but that might require legal considerations, so probably best left out for now.
  • The SoH has today published a news article on the fact that members can add additional therapies to their insurance package. Some SoH members offer a range of services, including homeopathy, but the standard insurance covers them only for homeopathy. Whether or not society members are underinsured might be a bit niche for Wikipedia.
The purpose of this post then is to combine some stuff that's on Wikipedia with stuff that isn't. I think it's important and helpful to have overview information of a topic, particularly where something involves many years of historical skeptic activism. It's easy to forget things and so useful to keep it all together.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Suggestion: [schol-sci-com], a mailing list for scientific and scholarly communication, a companion to @psci_com

Summary: I think we need a "schol-sci-com" mailing list as an accompaniment to the psci-com list, for jobs and events that are scientific but not public-focused.

Or does this list or group already exist and I just don't know about it? Perhaps several do - where are they? It needs to be an email list so that emails can be forwarded and people can sign up very easily. (I'm on LinkedIn in only the vaguest, technical sense, perhaps there are suitable groups there too but they're not very emailable from outside the group... are they?).

About psci-com
Psci-com is a public mailing list for science communicators and those working in or interested in public engagement with science. It currently has just under 4,500 subscribers (who receive emailed posts and can post things to the list themselves) and messages to the list include job adverts, events listings, requests for advice, and general discussion. It's been in existence since at least 1998 (originally created by Wellcome I believe) and I've been its owner since Autumn 2012.

The 'problem'
Regarding the job advert side of things there has been a recent noticeable increase in the number of job adverts coming in to its moderation queue that don't fall within the list's remit of public engagement with science. The list's focus is the intersection between science and the public so posts need to be relevant to both.

Some jobs straddle 'scicomm' and scholarly comms - for example a Health-condition Charity might want a research officer whose role involves liaising with researchers to peer-review the research they fund, so that in itself is not particularly scicomm. But there may be opportunities for the post-holder to give public talks about the research, or to write plain-English summaries, or help answer public enquiries - those sorts of jobs are likely more relevant to the list. [Also charities often have lay members on their research committees]

Each post is considered on its own merits by me, as fairly as I can manage it. Where possible I try and work with the person emailing me to 'bring out' the public engagement-y bits of a job advert. In short, I try and get any job ad posts tailored to the list (much as you'd tailor your CV and cover letter if you were applying).

But for some job ads it's really a struggle to find their inner psci-com and I can't let them through as they're just not relevant. This doesn't make me happy as I know there'll be those on the list who'd welcome the info, but I don't want to make the list an 'anything vaguely sciencey' free for all so I try and keep non-remit posts to a minimum.

A proposed solution
I'd like to propose the creation of a new schol-sci-com type of mailing list that caters for jobs, events, conferences and discussions that relate to the communication of science to scientists in industry and academia, rather than to or with the public. When non-remit jobs come in to psci-com I'd like to be able to say that it's not suitable for the psci-com list but would they mind if I forwarded on to schol-sci-com instead. That doesn't have to be its name though!

While I can set up and run this list alongside psci-com myself it might be something for someone else to do so I'm opening this up publicly as first refusal. There's no pay. I'm not paid to run psci-com but it's interesting and fun and means you get to hear about all sorts of cool stuff. You do actually get a bit of exposure ;) ("Oh you're Jo, I'm on psci-com!" - though so far it's not paid the rent!)

Also I'm really not an expert in scientific publishing, scholarly comms, science business marketing and things like that.

There are lots of platforms available. Jiscmail is the path of least resistance for the 'psci-com sister group' concept, however there's a restriction in that you need an email address to be the group's owner. But I think it should be something where people can send an email to an email address (rather than having to submit posts to LinkedIn or however it works).

A note on terminology
The term science communication is generally restricted to public communications, with the term scientific communication for scholarly type comms. It's not exactly ideal in terms of avoiding confusion though!

Here's what Wikipedia has to say -

Science communication

"Science communication is the practice of informing, educating, sharing wonderment, and raising awareness of science-related topics. Science communicators and audiences are ambiguously defined and the expertise and level of science knowledge varies with each group."

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Homeopathy company in Germany issues lawyerly notices to skeptics for saying homeopathy doesn't work

Yesterday I read a new post from Edzard Ernst highlighting that a homeopathic company in Germany, Hevert Arzneimittel, had sent legal letters to homeopathy skeptics asking them to stop saying that homeopathy doesn't work and to sign an agreement to that effect or they'd have to pay just over 5,000 euros to the company.

A couple of the German skeptics affected have tweeted copies of their letters. Some Twitter apps / platforms have a 'translate' button below tweets, if not you can paste the text into Google Translate and select German to English.

In early May another homeopathy group reported Bernd Kramer to the German press association for his criticisms of homeopathy, which he tweets, and he adds updates to his thread eventually leading to the tweeted legal letter from Hevert shared on 16 May 2019.

On 24 May Natalie Grams (herself a former homeopath) tweeted her own legal letter (English translation), by which time tweeted responses to @HevertNatur's Twitter account had become robustly critical and mocking, and voluminous.

As far as I'm aware people who received the letters had not been critical of the company itself, they'd just pointed out that homeopathy doesn't work.

Given the phenomenon of the Streisand Effect (drawing even more attention to something when seeking to remove some small level of attention already received, see also Verschlimmbesserung) it seems an odd action to take, as lots of people are now sharing info about the legal action. As a consequence they are now criticising the company as well as reiterating that homeopathy does not work with the rallying cry "Homöopathie wirkt nicht über den Placebo-Effekt hinaus" or "Homeopathy does not work beyond the placebo effect".

Today Hevert has published a statement on its Facebook page (though not mentioned at time of writing on its Twitter page) explaining the action it has taken in trying to prevent criticism of homeopathy in Germany. It's interesting to note that they specifically acknowledge the effectiveness of UK skeptics^ in getting legal restrictions introduced on homeopathy* in Britain, which followed from commentary that was critical about homeopathy (a pattern they are hoping to avoid occurring in Germany). Again the (over 200) comments on the page are now critical of the company's actions and asking for evidence that homeopathy is more effective than placebo.

The comments on Edzard's post are interesting and helpful and put things into context in terms of German law. Commenter Joseph Kuhn suggests that the company may be able to assume that, legally, authorised homeopathic products are considered effective: "The German law on drugs assumes efficacy for authorised homeopathic remedies (remedies with an indication)" and so perhaps it's not unreasonable to expect people to respect that assessment.

Eppur (non) si muove, however.

^this includes scientists, doctors, patients - not just bloggers
*For example homeopathy has largely been removed from the NHS and is no longer allowed as a first line treatment by vets. There's also been a tightening of permitted marketing claims and much greater scrutiny of them.