Thursday 12 March 2020

Scientists at work

Research in progress

With the Coronavirus now officially a pandemic, it's all hands to the pumps for public health groups who are desperately trying to warn people about... salt.

The Royal Society for Public Health has been talking about little else - for it is salt awareness week. Action on Sugar/Salt did their usual thing of reporting the amount of salt that is 'hiding' in various products and declaring their findings to be 'shocking'.


The George Institute did likewise...


The photo in this tweet shows all too clearly how mundane this 'research' is. They buy a load of food products and look at the labels. When the salt content is shown on the packaging, it's not really 'hidden', is it?

Another study crossed my radar yesterday to illustrate the feeble nature of modern, deskbound 'public health' research. It looked at the amount of money 'Big Food' gives to various academic institutes. It doesn't show that the donations influenced results, not does it show whether these institutions produced better or worse research than those which remain 'independent'.

It doesn't even show how much money is involved because the whole thing is based on a Google search.

This study has several limitations. Our search missed donations that were not highly publicized, those on websites that had deleted older information or not disclosed such information, or donations from shell foundations and companies. Another limitation of our study is that the data on the growth in donations over time may be attributable to secular trends in Internet use, recent public pressure to increase transparency in industry donation practices, or removal of older donation information from websites. Finally, it is possible that our Google search terms produced biased search results that may have led us to miss relevant websites. For example, we used search terms such as “[company name] [synonyms for donation]” but not “[company name] endowed chair” or “[company name] hospital”, meaning our search procedures likely produced an incomplete list of the food industry’s relationships with academic programs. 

 One for the Nobel committee to consider this year.

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