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

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Suggested use for bad science stickers

Last night on Twitter @zeno001 said
"Advert on London underground at Kings Cross for vitamin supplement for kids - someone added sticker: "Bad Science Alert" Probably illegal!"

and @bengoldacre replied
"someone design it, i'll print em RT @zeno001 Ad at Kings Cross for vitamin supplement for 4 kids, someone added sticker: "Bad Science Alert""

which I think is a great idea.

Should this come to fruition the resulting stickers could simply be used as an advert for the badscience book or website, where iffy claims are dissected, as sort of hinted at by the sticker @owencm designed but I have another suggestion.

I'm thinking of something similar to the Bookcrossing concept. A sticker is placed inside a book, which is left in a public place, with a web address and a number on it. You go to the website, type in the number and you get information about who first released the book into the wild and any other information about where it's been on its travels.

How about numbered bad science stickers (with a dedicated website - perhaps the badscience forum?) which will let readers of the advert find out more about why someone thinks the advert is potentially misleading - basically a sort of meatspace Sidewiki.

When you're on the train and see the advert for Bassetts Soft & Chewy Energiser vitamins you might notice sticker 1038 attached and visiting the magic website that's not been invented yet you'd get information about the tablets, perhaps with the suggestion to go to bed an hour earlier (I'm a bit disappointed they don't mention getting more sleep / going to bed earlier in their 12 suggested steps to avoid the afternoon slump).

Clearly the person doing the stickering would have to double check the 'database' to see if someone had already bagsed that advert, in which case they'd simply redirect number 1038 to number 357, for example, and perhaps add a comment.

I think the following would be important:-

1. The stickers should be replaceable / removable and not permanently mark the advert. Whatever I might think about the ad, someone's paid for it to be placed there and damaging it is not good. But non-permanently amending it's fine. Someone was recently in trouble for defacing one of the Alpha posters.

**EDIT**: Thanks to @zeno001 for alerting me to @jackofkent's related blog post that I missed today:- QUICK BLOGPOST: The Alpha Course and Graffiti - Ticking The Wrong Box

2. The website should allow additional comments to be added - this of course includes the possibility of a right of reply from the owner of the ad, should they hear about it.

3. Information about boundaries should be placed prominently on the website so that commenters do not find themselves at the wrong end of scrutiny from the owners of the ad.


  1. This is an interesting idea and I'm sure it'll promote scepticism but along the lines of Lord Drayson's argument at the RI, if the quality of reporting goes up in the future this could mean any true news story which seems at all unbelievable will be written off? Also doesn't this lead to hundreds of possibly not so well researching people posting simply that an advert is ridiculous, rather than the meticulous research of somebody such as Ben Goldacre?

    I suppose you could let people post but make each post be marked as 'Unverified' unless properly researched by a moderator or forum member of staff with full links to citation?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. You said: "The stickers should be replaceable / removable and not permanently mark the advert. Whatever I might think about the ad, someone's paid for it to be placed there and damaging it is not good. But non-permanently amending it's fine"

    I am not sure this is the case. A court once held that mud thrown against a wall was criminal damage, even though it could slide off.

    It only takes one daft policeman and you could end up with a criminal record.

    (Previous post deleted for sense.)

  4. @Owen: I love the 'Unverified' idea. I think that's brilliant as a sticker as it loses the ever so slightly negative stamp of 'bad'.

    Hopefully the less well researched commenters would be smoothed out by my point 2 - others can comment on everyone else's post and I like to think people would call out someone if they were making bad suggestions.

    @Jack: Thanks for the tip - I shall be a bit cautious!


Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).