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

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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Dr Nancy Malik's homeopathy-supporting website mistakenly implies that it is HON accredited

Health on the Net (HON) accredit websites that offer health information if the website's content passes eight criteria (the 'HON Code'). Once this has been demonstrated the owner is given a bit of code (a 'widget') to add to their site which confirms that their site has been certified as giving good-quality information. This shows on the certified website as a side-panel badge which, if clicked, takes you to a page on HON's website that confirms the validated certificate.

There is another way of checking if a site is accredited. HON have created toolbar widgets for browsers that light up when the browser is visiting a HON-accredited site.

Here's what it looks like when visiting Patient.co.uk

and here's what it looks like when visiting Dr Nancy Malik's Science-based Homeopathy site

If you look for the blue and red icon on the right the difference is clear.

The website, Science-based Homeopathy, is not accredited by Health on the Net - though it was previously.

Health on the Net's certificate for Dr Malik's website currently says 'invalid' in bright red letters: https://www.healthonnet.org/HONcode/Conduct.html?HONConduct822331

Interestingly Dr Malik (or her webmaster) has removed the badge from her website and replaced it with the picture below. The text of the link on her site is 'verify here' which implies that visitors clicking that link will be able to check the validity of the certificate.



In fact visitors are now taken to a screenshot of the earlier certificate (when the site was still validated). The screenshot is hosted on Google, not Health on the Net and so is not 'live' as a valid certificate.

The person running this website (it may not be Dr Malik) appears to have removed a now-invalid certificate in order to replace it with an older once-valid copy to give the impression that the site is still certificated. Perhaps this is an honest mistake and not done deliberately but now that so many have pointed this out it seems strange for the error not to have been fixed.

In short, Dr Nancy Malik's website 'Science-based Homeopathy' has lost its HONCode certification.

Strangely, the site also hosts a blog and one of the posts* attempts to explain this away. The old certificate is shown on the post and the text around it implies that re-certification is imminent after a short audit period. This seems to be quite unlikely.

During the audit period HON did not rescind the certificate but instead stated that it was under review ('re-exam'). The fact that it has now been changed to 'invalid' strongly suggests that the audit period has finished and that there will be no re-certification unless significant changes are made on the website to bring it in line with the HON Code. However, the strange behaviour regarding the way the real (invalid) certificate has been obscured on the site doesn't really suggest that this site would be trusted again in future.

*http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/honcode-certificaton/




4 comments:

  1. I take exception to the word "mistaken". In the circumstances, it is hard to believe that Malik is in good faith. The word to use is therefore not "mistakenly" but "dishonestly".

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    Replies
    1. It is possible that she is not making these changes to her site. I think it's always best to assume - it not good faith - that someone possibly doesn't really know quite what they're doing, or doesn't understand the consequences of what they're doing.

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    2. That is exceptionally generous of you, Jo.

      Given that one would have to go into the code snippet I assume was provided by HONcode and fudge it, I find it difficult to believe that whomever did this was not aware of the consequences of their actions.

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    3. Whoever's done it doesn't seem to have tweaked the code snippet, more removed it and replaced it with a bit of text and some links to a picture hosted elsewhere. In fact it's conceptually similar to the small pictorial advert I have up there that goes to the site for Made in Dagenham the musical, and also for the Open Air cinema screenings which just goes to another page on this site.

      If you scroll right to the bottom of http://www.patient.co.uk/ you'll see a widget picture which points to their valid certificate (I don't know if they used a bit of code or just added a hyperlinked picture) but however it's achieved as we all know - Nancy's site has lost its certificate.

      In fact you don't even need to click on it if you have the HONcode toolbar enabled, which I set up before writing this piece to be absolutely certain, from two separate pieces of evidence, that Nancy Malik's Science-based Homeopathy website is in breach of the HONcode.

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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).