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, 23 January 2019

Some encouraging regulatory news on CEASE therapy for autism - #homeopathy

Summary: the PSA has already taken on board skeptics' concerns about some of the Society of Homeopaths' members who use homeopathy and CEASE therapy in treating (and claiming to treat) autistic children. In January 2019 the PSA added an additional point to consider, which is that the treatment "seeks to ‘eliminate’ a characteristic that not everyone would think necessary or desirable to eliminate" and is a safeguarding concern.
CEASE therapy is a bogus treatment for autism. It stands for Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression and consultations are regularly offered by homeopaths via Skype, widening the pool of possible patients to anyone around the world. CEASE relies on the incorrect idea that it's possible to detox from vaccinations by using high dose vitamins, other supplements and homeopathic remedies.


The Society of Homeopaths is aware that some of their members offer CEASE and that the marketing of the intervention is often deemed problematic. There have been adjudications by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against homeopaths who've made misleading claims about the treatment and it's generally considered that writing CEASE out in full itself makes a marketing claim.

For the last couple of years the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) have had their register of members accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). Skeptic bloggers (including me) have been regularly in touch with the PSA to express concerns about the problems that promoting CEASE therapy entails. The PSA has taken some promising action.

In February 2018 the PSA re-accredited the SoH but with provisos attached that they monitor CEASE-offering members' advertising material, put a position statement on their website about the treatment and what can't be claimed for it and review the risks of the treatment.
• More detail on this can be found here Better monitoring of homeopaths advertising CEASE therapy for autism in the UK - hooray (28 Feb 2018)


A fellow skeptic has just alerted me to the recently published outcome from a Board Meeting the PSA had on 16 January 2019. It covers all of their accreditation processes but specific mention is made of the PSA's own concerns about CEASE therapy / homeopathy, raising a new issue that I confess hadn't occurred to me (Equality Act, see first para in the quote below).
• More at Update on Accredited Registers (19 Jan 2019), a 6-pg PDF.


Point 6.12 on page 5 of 6 says (emphasis added by me)
"...In the light of our experience with considering the issues involved in CEASE therapy we would highlight one additional point. Whilst we addressed this primarily from a safety perspective, it also raised an ethical issue under the Equality Act in so far as the therapy seeks to ‘eliminate’ a characteristic that not everyone would think necessary or desirable to eliminate. Since we already consider observance with the Equality Act within our assessment process we do not think we need to amend the principles.

We consider the safeguarding legislative gap to present an ongoing risk to the public and we will continue to raise this matter with the DHSC and Ministers. This year we will focus our assessment activity on accredited registers risk management procedures, which will include reviewing their safeguarding arrangements and if this continues to highlight a problem, we will present our findings to DHSC to strengthen our call for action."
From
Update on Accredited Registers (19 Jan 2019)DHSC = Department for Health and Social Care
Encouragingly the Society of Homeopaths has already appointed their first safeguarding officer (Sep 2018) which is a positive move, but there are still a number of their members whose websites make claims about autism that shouldn't be made. More on that in the next couple of months or so.

As for the SoH's current accreditation? Along with a couple of other members' registers their status is "Annual review under assessment"...


Further reading
Pic credit: Schüssler tablets homeopathy




Friday, 18 January 2019

Who have the ASA referred to Trading Standards and what happened next?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK keeps a page of non-compliant online advertiers - people are added to the page, and eventually fall off it. I thought I should keep a closer eye on changes to that page and set up a post to do that, but this post looks at the Referrals page. This outlines the activity where a non-compliant advertiser is referred to Trading Standards for further action.

There are curently 62 cases listed, however you have to keep pressing 'show more' to see them so this shows the full list all at once.

Bold text in yellow highlights what happened next after referral.

  • iPhoneIMEI.net

    • 09 January 2019
    • Unlocking iPhone and iCloud service
    • Referred
  • 97maxx.co.uk

    • 02 January 2019
    • 97maxx.co.uk
    • trainers
    • Referred
  • 95max.co.uk

    • 23 October 2018
    • 95max.co.uk
    • Trainers
    • Referred
  • D Smith

    • 06 September 2018
    • Contactthedvla.co.uk / dvla-contact-number.co.uk
    • Call forwarding service
    • Referred
  • Travel Affairs Ltd

    • 23 August 2018
    • ehic-e111-card.org
    • Copycat website (EHIC)
    • Referred
  • Kellys Vegies Ltd

    • 23 August 2018
    • My Farm Fresh Box
    • Grocery box subscription
    • Referred
  • UK Official Records Ltd

    • 23 August 2018
    • ukofficialrecords.co.uk
    • Copycat website (Replacement certificates)
    • Referred
  • Holistic Energy Advanced Learning Ltd

    • 20 August 2018
    • Allergy Testing UK
    • Allergy and food intolerance testing
    • Referred
  • www.point-less.co.uk

    • 07 August 2018
    • www.point-less.co.uk
    • Point-Less
    • Website taken down
  • PDQ Estates Ltd

    • 24 July 2018
    • PDQ
    • Estate agent
    • Referred
  • kenyaairway.co.uk

    • 14 May 2018
    • kenyaairway.co.uk
    • Travel agent
    • Website taken down
  • Online Central Reservations Ltd

    • 30 April 2018
    • Central Reservations
    • Hotel bookings
    • Website taken down
  • Goodwin Development Trust

    • 09 April 2018
    • Oxypod
    • Referred
  • George Smith

    • 24 January 2018
    • UK Directory Services
    • Call forwarding service
    • Website taken down
  • ETA and E-Visa Service

    • 12 January 2018
    • us-esta.uk
    • “Copycat” website
    • Website taken down
  • Thermalogica Ltd

    • 10 January 2018
    • Thermalogica Health Screening
    • Thermal imaging
    • Website taken down
  • herdress.co.uk

    • 04 January 2018
    • HerDress
    • Dress for formal events
    • Referred
  • Sky Number

    • 04 September 2017
    • skynumber.co.uk
    • Call forwarding service
    • Ceased trading
  • Marie Atlas Ltd

    • 12 May 2017
    • marieatlas.co.uk
    • AtlasProfilax Therapy
    • Trader now compliant
  • FreeFusion Ltd

    • 07 April 2017
    • www.iphonespecialist.co.uk
    • Mobile phone repair
    • Prosecuted
  • Threechings.com Ltd

    • 21 February 2017
    • Three Chings
    • Trader now compliant
  • Ticket4Football

    • 02 February 2017
    • Ticket4Football
    • Referred
  • Premier Events

    • 01 February 2017
    • Premier Events
    • Referred
  • Novum Publishing gmbh

    • 26 January 2017
    • United P.C. Publisher
    • Referred
  • Britannia Campaigning Ltd

    • 24 January 2017
    • Britain First
    • Trader now compliant
  • Lionheart GB

    • 24 January 2017
    • The Patriot Store
    • Clothing
    • Trader now compliant
  • Halcyon Bracelets

    • 01 January 2017
    • Halcyon Bracelets
    • Halcyon copper bracelets
    • Trader now compliant
  • Dr Jin

    • 01 January 2017
    • Traditional Chinese medicine
    • Trader now compliant
  • Zeetech Services Ltd

    • 01 January 2017
    • Canterbury Spine and Health Practice
    • Chiropractic Services
    • Website taken down
  • Nature's Range Ltd

    • 01 January 2017
    • Nature's Range
    • ProstEase, JointEase, Pernol
    • Referred
  • Easy Consulting SL

    • 01 November 2016
    • Direct Resorts International The Ultimate Holiday Package
    • Holiday accommodation
    • Trader now compliant
  • Meridian Consumer Research Private Ltd

    • 01 November 2016
    • drivinglicenceguide.co.uk, incomesupportguide.co.uk
    • Call forwarding service
    • Trader now compliant
  • -Limit Ltd

    • 01 October 2016
    • www.europeanhealthcard.org.uk
    • “Copycat” website
    • Ceased trading
  • Chinese Clinics (Balham) Ltd

    • 01 September 2016
    • The Chinese Clinic
    • Traditional Chinese medicine
    • Website taken down
  • Crystal Healing Light Ltd

    • 01 September 2016
    • Crystal Healing Light
    • Crystal therapy
    • Website taken down
  • Ron Prescott ND

    • 01 September 2016
    • www.ronprescottnd.co.uk, www.mecures.co.uk & www.smileqigong.com
    • Alternative therapies
    • Trader now compliant
  • XT-Tec Ltd

    • 01 August 2016
    • pcbattery.co.uk
    • Laptop Batteries
    • Website taken down
  • missydress.co.uk Inc

    • 01 July 2016
    • www.missydress.co.uk
    • Dresses
    • Website taken down
  • top-battery.co.uk

    • 01 June 2016
    • www.top-battery.co.uk
    • Laptop Batteries
    • Website taken down
  • Kitchen Units Cardiff

    • 01 June 2016
    • www.kitchenunits-cardiff.co.uk
    • Kitchens
    • Website taken down
  • Finitro

    • 01 February 2016
    • Finitro
    • Finitro Forte Plus
    • Trader now compliant
  • Dr Alyssa Burns Hill

    • 01 January 2016
    • www.alyssaburns-hill.com
    • Hormone Testing and Holistic Health Advice
    • Referred
  • Tiny Tinklers

    • 01 December 2015
    • www.teethingnecklace.co.uk
    • Amber teething necklaces
    • Website taken down
  • ATN-UK Company

    • 01 August 2015
    • www.amber-teething-necklaces.co.uk
    • Amber Teething Necklaces
    • Website taken down
  • Bamboo Textiles

    • 01 August 2015
    • www.bamboo-textiles.co.uk
    • Bamboo Textiles
    • Trader now compliant
  • Live Blood Test

    • 01 August 2015
    • Errol Denton
    • Live Blood Test
    • Referred 

    This person is also behind Fitalifestyle Ltd and was prosecuted and fined under the Cancer Act 1939 and two years later again under trading laws (and again fined) and is currently subject to a Community Behaviour Order - Jo
  • Howard Bult

    • 01 August 2015
    • Howard Bult
    • Bowen Therapy
    • Trader now compliant
  • Cascade Financial Ltd

    • 01 August 2015
    • www.daddycashforgold.co.uk
    • Financial
    • Website taken down
  • Kitchen Factory Ltd

    • 01 August 2015
    • www.the-kitchenfactory.co.uk, www.kitchendesign1.co.uk, and www.uk-fittedkitchen.co.uk
    • Kitchens
    • Website taken down
  • Fitalifestyle

    • 01 August 2015
    • seemycells.co.uk - see comment for Live Blood Analysis above, Jo
    • Liquid Chlorophyll
    • Referred
  • Paul Godber

    • 01 August 2015
    • IronHorseHouse (IHH)
    • Software add-ons for a train simulator game
    • Website taken down
  • SeaMaple (HK) Ltd

    • 01 August 2015
    • Urdress.co.uk
    • Formal dresses
    • Website taken down
  • The Tanning Hut

    • 01 August 2015
    • www.thetanninghut-huntingdon.co.uk
    • Sunbeds
    • Trader now compliant
  • LifestrengthUK

    • 01 August 2015
    • LifestrengthUK
    • Lifestrength wristbands
    • Website taken down
  • London Natural Therapies

    • 01 August 2015
    • www.londonnaturaltherapies.co.uk
    • Live blood
    • Trader now compliant
  • Philip Martin's

    • 01 August 2015
    • Philip Martin's
    • Philip Martin's Organics
    • Website taken down
  • Sonic Reflex

    • 01 August 2015
    • Waterboost
    • Waterboost
    • Trader now compliant
  • Kidz 5 A Day Ltd

    • 01 August 2014
    • Kidz 5 A Day Ltd
    • Powdered Drink
    • Ceased trading
  • Attitude Holidays

    • 01 August 2014
    • Attitude Holidays Ltd
    • Holidays
    • Website taken down
  • The Linden Centre

    • 01 August 2014
    • The Linden Method
    • The Linden Method
    • Now in Primary Authority Partnership
  • Systek Marketing Group

    • 01 August 2014
    • Prospect Email
    • Email address lists
    • Website taken down
  • Electronic Healing

    • 01 May 2014
    • Electronic Healing
    • BobBeck Protocol / Liquid Oxygen Drops
    • Prosecuted

Small successful example of skeptical activism - LadyCare menopause magnets

Recently I've been keeping a closer eye on the Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) list of non-compliant online advertisers. I spotted one name had been taken off the list (LadyCare Lifetime Ltd) and was surprised to find that they hadn't been moved to the Referrals page, where persistently non-compliant advertisers are referred to Trading Standards for further action (which may include criminal proceedings). Where have they gone? I asked the ASA and they indicated that they were focusing on other things and I've not pushed it further yet.

LadyCare make magnets which are claimed to help symptoms of menopause but there doesn't appear to be a record of strong evidence to support that.  

The company had received an adjudication against their claims back in 2009 becaue of a misleading advert appearing in a newspaper. Adjudications remain on the ASA's website for five years, but in 2014 they'd additionally been added to the more serious non-compliant list.

I googled to see if I could find more information and discovered that Woman and Home magazine had, coincidentally more or less on the same day, published a reasonably favourable article about the product: The LadyCare Menopause Magnet: What is it, and does it actually work? (11 January 2019) Woman & Home

So I decided to email them and let them know about the ASA's investigation.

I found archived copies* of the first adjudication (2009) and of the non-compliant advert and sent them to the editor outlining my concerns that their article was a bit more favourable than might have been warranted, and highlighted the ASA's concerns about the marketing claims. (To be fair this product is unlikely to be particularly harmful to women - other than spending money on a product that may be unnecessary, I'm not sure it discourages people from seeing their doctor either).

Happily the editor took my concerns seriously and they've made quite a lot of changes to the article which I was pleased about. Thanks Woman and Home! They included some of the ASA's comments as well as comments from Dr Jen Gunter's blog (she was very unconvinced by the claims made for the product). They also had a couple of consumer comments, from people who'd found it ineffective but also from people who'd found a benefit.

I think it's worth sending a polite email to editors to ask them to add or amend something, it doesn't always work (but you can blog about it either way to let others know about the problem). 

*The way the ASA's website is now set up means that it's not possible for the Internet Archive / Wayback Machine to archive its later content, though earlier content is searchable. This means that you need to save copies yourself if you need to monitor a page. The link to the 'first adjudication' from 2009 is saved to the Wayback Machine whereas the second link to the 'non-compliant advert' from 2014 is just a link to the most recent cached copy that Google has. It will soon fade as the page is now gone so the next time Google checks it will find it empty and clear its own cache. I've saved a copy for my records though.





Thursday, 10 January 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody sing-along is great fun

"I'm having such a good time, I'm having a ball"

A few weeks ago I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody with a friend*. Neither of us are Queen fans in particular but we grew up with a lot of the songs so have fond memories. Of course we loved it and afterwards she suggested that it might do rather well as a sing-along (hadn't even occurred to me!), I agreed.

A few weeks later the Prince Charles Cinema announced they were going to screen the UK premiere of Bohemian Rhapsody the Sing Along version, where lyrics to the songs appear on the screen and everyone joins in. So on Sunday she and I went back to see the film again but this time to sing along, legitimately.

When we walked into the auditorium (the big one downstairs at the PCC with the very cambered seats) there seemed to be t-shirts on sale immediately to our left. I thought 'merch' was a good idea but then realised that every single seat had a free yellow t-shirt with Bohemian Rhapsody on it for us to wear. When we got closer to our seats we also spotted that everyone had a clip on Freddie Mercury moustache to wear. I thought that was a rather lovely touch and the venue was fully booked, with another performance straight after ours (we were at the afternoon one).

I've never been to a sing-along performance before but it's all fairly obvious. They did give us a few tips and practice runs at the pre-show 'briefing' (they also got a few people on stage to show off their best rock star poses) and got us to try out a bit of the 'ay-oh' stuff and wave our hands during We Are The Champions etc.

If you've not seen the film before I suppose there's a danger that you might focus more on the words and singing along so you might miss something, I was glad I'd already seen it. Also, particularly in the live concert parts (including Live Aid) the songs are sung slightly differently from the recorded versions so in a couple of cases I was (and I presume some others) singing the tune 'wrongly'. You can see the original Live Aid performance in this video.



The words-on-screen worked really well. They arrived just in time and slightly changed colour as the phrase progressed - very handy during one of the longer aaaaaaaaaaaaaay-ohs (see at around 7mins in the vid above) - a bit like the bouncing ball marking out the notes in kids' TV programmes I grew up with. The words also appeared and disappeared in quite an artistic way, not like subtitles. It was well done.

Afterwards my friend suggested that it would do well on the open air circuit (again, hadn't occurred to me) and of course she's absolutely right. It's perfect for that. Wonder if we'll show it at the Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival later this year.

The moustache now lives on my bathroom light pull. It keeps falling off but I keep putting it back.



*Yes of course I was also looking forward to seeing Tom Hollander in another film (he's been in about six lately, fantastic, he's wonderful).



Sunday, 6 January 2019

Types of science communication jobs - a list

The most up to date version of this post lives at the ScicommJobs blog





Prospects.ac.uk is a website with a listing of the types of jobs associated with a particular degree / discipline, full list here https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-degree/

Some examples
The biology one does mention 'science writer' as an option but largely focuses on continuing to be a scientist - I didn't find much on the site promoting jobs in science communication. Pinching the list idea of job types from Prospect and the idea of the range of different scicomm sectors from myself I've come up with a starter-list of types of things science communicators might do.

Perhaps you'll be reading this and going "oh for heaven's sake she's forgotten X", hopefully you'll tell me :) @JoBrodie

There's a lot of overlap among the different sectors mentioned, I suppose we could also divide jobs into those where you communicate science face to face, by written media (blogs, newspapers), or spoken (radio) or on TV...

Museums, science centres
  • Museum explainer - someone who supports visitors as they meander through the exhibits
  • Science show or Planetarium presenter - someone who gives a short talk and possibly answers questions
  • Blogger (likely to be part of another role though) - someone who shares interesting or even quirky aspects of the centre's collection
Science or medical journalism
  • (Blogger - unpaid, own time)
    • As anyone can create a free blog this is a low-cost (beyond time) way of getting some writing practice and seeing what works, while building up a portfolio. While it's highly unlikely that the blog itself would provide an income it may lead to other opportunities.
  • Writer / journalist for newspaper or medical journal etc
  • Editor / Commissioning Editor
  • Researcher / fact-checker
  • Social media / blogger (as a job) / podcast or other audiovisual content creator
  • For science or medical journals some of these jobs may also be combined with the admin of seeking reviewers for articles submitted, and managing the article submission and publication process. 
TV or radio presenting, or contributor, editor, producer, researcher
  • (This can also be a subset of science / medical journalism)
  • Might be a helpful idea to create your own YouTube channel so people can see what you're like on camera, perhaps not just presenting to camera but interacting with an interviewed guest. Or something like a podcast.
  • See also a post of mine from 2011 on How to be a science presenter, from a BBC Science talk at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
Medical research charities / patient groups (also science research-funding Research Councils)
  • Head of Research / Research Grants Manager / Research Grants administrator 
    • all involve the administration of the charity's research portfolio which includes managing applications and finding reviewers for them. There is also a lot of translating all this science into plain English to tell supporters what they've funded and why it's important, also for fundraising colleagues to be able to use that info to raise funds.
  • (Science) Information Manager / Officer aka Public Information Officer (PIO)
    • this job may be combined with other Comms roles but typically includes helping colleagues, healthcare professionals and the public (eg via a Q&A helpline) make sense of the latest and historical research into the relevant condition and help keep everyone up to date. Often this task overlaps with librarian work.
  • Director of Communications / Head of Press / Press Officer / PR & publicity
    • this can incorporate science communication when writing a press release about research the charity has funded (or commenting on research from elsewhere) but will also involve policy work, and promoting events or news items that might be less scicomm-oriented.
  • Publications editor / writer
    • Some charities have a magazine for members, also a more medical one for healthcare professionals and even without that there's a high chance that there will be patient information leaflets or info leaflets for medics. These may be written in-house by staff with a biomedical background.
Government / Policy
  • Researcher / writer of brief 'POSTnotes' for ministers via the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology. 
  • Department-specific roles eg in BEIS etc.

Learned societies / professional bodies
  • Head of public events, event manager, officer - some learned societies will have a programme of public events
  • Social media / blogger (as a job) / podcast or other audiovisual content creator - to share info with professional members and the public about events or subject-specific information
  • See also Publications editor / writer in Medical charities section as many societies have their own members magazine.

Universities
  • Public engagement co-ordinators / managers
    • this role may be attached to a particular department (eg one for the Biology dept, another for chemistry) or attached to a dedicated Engagement department. Individual large research projects may also employ their own to both involve stakeholders in the development of the research and later to support dissemination of the project's results.
  • Scicomm as a sideline to research
    • For people already working as scientists in a university there are plenty of opportunities to share their own research, comment on others' research in the news media. Also plenty of opportunities to make their work accessible via public lectures, fun events, having school groups visit (or giving talks to schools).